12.04.2024 | Reviews of the week

Reviews of the week

Early international reactions to the upcoming solo piano album Silent, Listening by Fred Hersch


One has the feeling of being a private eavesdropper in the studio as Hersch alternates between playing standards, compelling originals or how he spontaneously creates brand new melodies. The mood throughout much of the session is mellow, as if the pianist is reflecting at the end of a day as he winds down, though there are moments of drama, especially with his deft hand muting the bass strings in spots. Hersch’s stunning improvised introduction to Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s ‘The Star-crossed Lovers’ leads into a luxurious, leisurely unveiling of the melody, a rendition that would captivate the attention of any size audience. […] The pianists originals prove equally compelling, including a tense ‘Arkasia’, which has an air of mystery worthy of use in a film soundtrack, possibly due to the fact he improvised much of it after the opening. […] Fred Hersch reaffirms his mastery of solo piano and composition with this certainly formidable release.

Ken Dryden, New York City Jazz Record


A highly individual musical endeavour that stands as a significant addition to ECM Records’ collection of groundbreaking solo piano recordings. This album skillfully weaves together songs and spontaneously crafted pieces, showcasing seven original creations alongside a selection of carefully curated standards.

Matt Micucci, Jazziz


Einen besonderen Zustand der Versenkung verlangt auch die reine Solodarbietung, vor allem, wenn sie voller Risiken ist, Selbstgewissheiten meidet, und kein virtuoses Schmankerl darstellt aus der eigenen Komfortzone. Und genau so ein rares  Solopianowerk von einsamer Klasse ist dem 68-jährigen Fred Hersch gelungen. Er ist kein Pianist, der seine Zuhörer mit aufwallendem Pathos einfängt. Sein an der Oberfläche kühl und kontrolliert wirkendes Spiel schlägt bei aufmerksamem Zuhören rasch um in einen immer wieder neu aufbrechenden, enorm reichhaltigen, Sinneszauber. Neben eigenen Stücken entschied er sich, im Austausch mit dem  Produzenten Manfred Eicher, auch drei Klassiker darzubieten.  Der Titel des Albums könnte treffender nicht sein: ‘Silent, Listening’.

Michael Engelbrecht, Deutschlandfunk


Über jedem der elf Titel schwebt eine raue, nächtliche Atmosphäre. Hersch agiert mehr im Inneren des Klaviers, bleibt aber offen für Einflüsse und Entwicklungen, forschend und frei, selbst bei Standards wie ‘Star-Crossed Lovers’, die er karg und geisterhaft interpretiert. […] Er hat sich entblößt, bietet Angriffsflächen und wirkt damit authentischer und emotionaler als je zuvor.

Reinhard Köchl, Jazzthing


A solo piano album recorded in a Lugano studio during May last year: Seven originals of the great American pianist – whose sound is a key influence on his former pupil Brad Mehldau – on ‘Little Song’ at the beginning the debt Mehldau owes to Hersch stylistically in terms of touch and a specific darting triplet feel in the first few bars is significant. It’s like seeing Mehldau’s face in front of you such is the immediacy and the luminessence, a very ECM kind of word. The first 5-star solo jazz piano album of 2024 it’s barkingly obvious. Herschtory in the making. How cool.

Stephen Graham, Marlbank


Accade così che, in un’atmosfera rallentata e rarefatta, caratterizzata da umori scuri e molto intensi (si ascolti, in particolare, il trittico formato dalla sequenza che comprende i tre brani ‘Silent, Listening’, ‘Starlight’ e ‘Aeon’) emerga un vero e proprio flusso di coscienza, usando il quale il pianista conduce l’ascoltatore in territori inusuali o inaspettati, segnati da tratti sognanti e pensosi.

Sandro Cerini, Musica Jazz (CD of the Month)

US, UK and French media on the album Compassion by Vijay Iyer with Linda May Han Oh and Tyshawn Sorey


‘Tempest’ is a punching, swirling workout during which Iyer’s piano plays blues-infused patterns in a roundabout with the bass and drums, the three players constantly circling each other within the composition like a trio of combatants in a ring. Once the jam kicks in, it just gets more exciting. ‘Ghostramental’ also swaggers and struts with appeal. There are several treatments of songs by ancestors that are notable. Roscoe Mitchell’s ‘Nonaah’ is a scrambling, free joy that works its way to the theme only at the end; the mashup of John Stubblefield’s ‘Free Spirits’ and ‘Drummer’s Song’ by Geri Allen is a gorgeous onrush of momentum; and ‘Overjoyed’ is yet another reminder that there are endless depths in Stevie Wonder’s music — Iyer powers it with a pedal point and rumbling chords that never cover up the song’s arcing fun. As always with Iyer, there is some top-notch writing. I’ve read some recent social media posts by older jazz scenesters complaining that younger jazz musicians are all technique, weird signatures, and no heart. But listen to the thrill of ‘Maelstrom’ or the wistful tug of ‘Where I Am’ and tell me that this generation doesn’t play and write with feeling.

Will Layman, Pop matters


I loved the trio’s 2021 debut album ‘Uneasy’, and was hugely impressed by their performance the following year at the London Jazz Festival. Compassion in no way disappoints; on the contrary, it confirms the seemingly effortless virtuosity of each individual while demonstrating their astonishingly empathetic interplay. Iyer’s compositions are pleasingly varied, subtle yet accessible in what has become a fairly recognisable style, but he’s also happy to complement them with compositions by others, including Stevie Wonder’s ‘Overjoyed’ (by way of Chick Corea) and Roscoe Mitchell’s ‘Nonaah’. The mood in the opening title track and in ‘Prelude: Orison’ may be meditative, restrained and lyrical, but much of the album, for all its rhythmic sophistication, really swings, sometimes funkily and furiously as in the aptly titled ‘Maelstrom’ and ‘Tempest’. It all comes to a glorious dancing end with the late Geri Allen’s ‘Drummer’s Song’, leaving me, at least, exhilarated by the unflashy yet consistently marvellous musicianship throughout.

Geoff Andrew, Notes & Observations


Un opus très réussi que propose un pianist don’t on ne se lasse pas de suivre le parcours.

Thierry Quénum, Couleurs Jazz

A German monthly magazine on the album Words Unspoken by John Surman


Auf ‘Words Unspoken’ verblüfft Surman erneut mit seiner ureigenen harmonischen Klangwelt aus folkloristischen Elementen und Jazz, die sich schon im Eingangstitel ‘Pebble Dance’ wie auch in ‘Bitter Aloe’ öffnet. Dafür sorgt sein Quartett mit hypnotischen Klangfiguren des Vibrafonisten Rob Waring, den atmosphärischen Gitarrensounds von Rob Luft sowie Thomas Strønens Beats, die John Surmans in lichten Höhen schwebende Saxofonchorusse optimal begleiten.

Gerd Filtgen, Stereo

The duo album Touch of Time by Arve Henriksen and Harmen Fraanje is reviewed by US and UK media


For his latest ECM release, ‘Touch of Time’, he teamed up with Harmen Fraanje, the innovative Dutch pianist. No-one else participated this time around, that’s it. The duo decided to leave behind the potential organic heartbeat of drums and bass or any other instruments. […] The pair begin by conjuring up windswept moods with the whispering tones of ‘Melancholia.’ It is as if Henriksen’s plaintive horn is announcing the arrival of an ancient wooden ship which is drifting and attempting to emerge from a murky, misty fog. As for pianist Fraanje, he reverently interacts with Henriksen by presenting delicate cascades of celestial droplets […] . Throughout ‘Touch of Time’, Henriksen and Fraanje repeatedly focus on sculpting moody landscapes. There is a soothing consistency but that also means bold solos or catchy melodies are left behind this time around. Many pieces teasingly fade and evaporate instead of simply ending. […] As the last notes recede, the artists ultimately leave listeners wondering and contemplating.

Scott Gudell, All About Jazz


Henriksen, apart from being a fine composer himself (not to mention a remarkable singer at both ends of the scale), has one of the most distinctive and memorably lyrical trumpet sounds around. That fluid, full-bodied, perhaps unique sonority – remember how you may have felt when you first heard Miles? – is immediately in evidence in his lovely collaboration with Fraanje, which consists of ten mostly brief miniatures, gently contemplative but enormously expressive. The majority are credited to both musicians, though the mood throughout is so delicate and evocative of the moment that many give the impression of having been improvised rather than composed. Whatever, this is music of unassertive but true beauty […] Despite their having first met as recently as 2019, it’s clear there is a highly fruitful creative chemistry between the pair. Moreover, Manfred Eicher’s characteristically sensitive, transparent production enhances the immediacy of atmosphere quite superbly.

Geoff Andrew, Notes & Observations

A UK reviewer on the piano solo album Call On The Old Wise by Nitai Hershkovits


The 18 rippling yet cleanly rendered, spacious and diversely cast pieces of ’Call On The Old Wise’ – all Hershkovits originals apart from Molly Drake’s ‘Dream Your Dreams’ and Ellington’s ‘Single Petal of a Rose’ – evince both a wide-ranging, most patient –and painterly – sensibility and a quality of dynamics and touch that speaks of a refined knowledge of jazz  history (hear ‘Rose’, the swinging ’Of Mentorship’ and the archetypal ’River Wash Me’) as well as a classical literacy of both a rococo and impressionist nature. It’s hard not to think of Debussy and Ravel during ’Enough To Say I Will’, ‘Placid In Africansque’ and ’In Satin’, for example. Despite such precedent there’s a freshened sense of time, dynamics and ’meaning’ here […] ‘d highlight further tracks but that would be to vitiate the exquisitely realized whole of this intriguing – and recommended – recital.

Michael Tucker, Jazz Journal

US and Swiss reactions to the album Songs of Fate by Gidon Kremer with the Kremerata Baltica and Vida Miknevičiūtė


‘Songs of Fate’ takes us on an extraordinary journey of survival and pain. Far more than a ‘concept album,’ it bears urgent witness to violinist Gidon Kremer’s roots as a Jew who has spent years in the Baltic states. This intimate, personal statement is intended, in Kremer’s words, ‘to speak to everybody, reminding us of tragic fates along the way and that we each have a ‘voice’ that deserves to be heard and listened to.’ Kremer’s violin, Magdalena Ceple’s cello, Andrei Pushkarev’s vibraphone, and the instruments of Kremerata Baltica speak eloquently as the recently composed ‘This too shall pass,’ by Raminta Šerkšnytė, gives way to four works by Giedrius Kuprevičius. Their heart-grabbing melodies and unmistakable roots in Jewish tradition touch deeply. […]  Five short works by Mieczyslaw Weinberg (1919–1996), including three of his Jewish Songs for soprano and string orchestra, intensify the sense of hope, dislocation, and despair that characterize the Jewish struggle for survival over close to six millennia. […] The program concludes with ‘Lignum,’ the shockingly original, breathtaking dialogue with nature and trees by Jekabs Jančevskis (b. 1992) that thrillingly expands to huge dimensions as it speaks to nature’s struggle to transcend impending catastrophe. What words cannot describe, music reveals.

 Jason Victor Serinus, Stereophile


Grosses Musikmachen hat viel mit Unerbittlichkeit gegenüber sich selbst zu tun. Der jüdisch-lettische-russische-deutsche-schwedische Geiger GidonKremer zeigt es vor. […] Kremer bleibt nicht stehen, bringt auch mit 77 Jahren neue Namen ins Spiel […] Bisweilen klingt diese Aufnahme schaurig-schön wie ein allerletzter Tango. Am Ende der hymnischen Klänge steht ‘Lignum’ des Letten  Jēkabs Jančevskis – eine Art Dialog mit Bäumen: wie sie Schatten werfen und still aufrecht stehen. Gidon Kremer steht nach wie vor aufrecht – still ist er nicht. Gott sei Dank.

Christian Berzins, Luzerner Zeitung

A German reaction to the vinyl-reissue of Jan Garbareks Afric Pepperbird within the Luminessence-series


Wer nur die späten Werke von Jan Garbarek kennt, die ruhigen, wohltönend-sphärischen und von der traditionellen norwegischen Folklore inspirierten, der wird von dem hohen Energielevel und der brachialen Experimentierwucht auf ‘Afric Pepperbird’ schwer irritiert sein. Dabei fängt das Album gemächlich an. Ein zurückhaltendes afrikanisches Daumenklavier und ein spärliches Becken leiten das Hauptthema von ’Skarabee’ ein, und ein resignierteres, weltmüderes Thema könnte man sich kaum vorstellen. Gespielt am oberen Ende von Garbareks Saxophon, mit subtiler und jenseitiger Gitarrenbegleitung von Terje Rypdal. Nichts und alles passiert in den sechs Minuten des Eröffnungsstückes. Abgesehen von dem kurzen Thema ist alles komplett improvisiert und trotzdem absolut fesselnd, ohne jemals in die Falle des totalen Kontrollverlustes zu geraten. […] Das Album wurde an zwei Tagen im September 1970 im Bendiksen Studio in Oslo aufgenommen. Und es legte den Grundstein für eine lebenslange Verbundenheit des Norwegers mit seinen Mitstreitern (dem Gitarristen Terje Rypdal, dem Bassisten Arild Andersen und dem Schlagzeuger Jon Christensen) genauso wie mit dem Label ECM, bei dem er den absoluten Großteil seiner Alben veröffentlichte. Es bleibt aber bis heute ein Exot in der Diskographie des Norwegers. Und ein Meilenstein der freien ausdrucksstarken europäischen Improvisationsmusik.

Sebastian Meißner, Sounds and Books

The vinyl re-issue of the debut album of legendary trio Azimuth within the Luminessence series is welcomed by US and German media


At the time Azimuth was formed, Norma Winstone and John Taylor had been working as a duo and in various bands together for some time. Canadian born Wheeler had settled in London in the 1950’s and was well versed in the talents of Winstone and Taylor individually and collectively, but it took the intuition of producer Manfred Eicher to add the trumpet and flugelhorn of Wheeler to the established duo to form a trio that would produce a minimalistic chamber jazz like no other. In fact there has not been anything quite like Azimuth since, and the re-issue of the trio’s debut album is most welcome. […] It appears that there is a growing interest of late in the music of this groundbreaking trio, with rapper Drake using an excerpt from ‘The Tunnel’ on a track from his 2023 album ‘For All The Dogs.’ This renewed interest in the music of Azimuth can only be a good thing and goes to show just how far ahead of their time they were, or just proves how enduring and timeless good music really is.

Nick Lea, Jazz Views


Gleich ihr erstes gemeinsames Album, schlicht ‘Azimuth’ genannt, beeindruckte durch humane Klangwelten, die auf der Grundlage seelenverwandter Kommunikation, dem gleichberechtigten Austausch von instrumentalen Strukturen und persönlichen Befindlichkeiten magische Wirkung entfalteten. Tiefgreifende, melancholisch verhangene Improvisationen, ein differenzierter harmonischer Rahmen, sowie ein stilles Pulsieren subtiler Intensität gaben dem Album schon beim Erscheinen eine hörbare Brillanz unter den Jazz-Neuerscheinungen. Und diese instrumentale Anomalie damals verzaubert auch heute noch, über viereinhalb Jahrzehnte später. […] Die Titel, allesamt vom Gespann Winstone/Taylor geschrieben, klingen oft wie Codes aus anderen Welten, wie die Musik zu zeitlosen Reisen eines Raumschiffes in ferne Regionen. Norma Winstone hat als Jazzsängerin immer ihre eigene Kunst entwickelt, nie hat sie amerikanische Jazzeusen kopiert und schon gar keine artistischen Überspitzungen bemüht. Sie brachte ihre tief im Menschlichen verwurzelte Stimme ein, nicht unbedingt Worte oder Inhalte. Es sind eher weiche, sanfte Laute, mit der sie jeden Song vocal gestaltete, ihm einen besonderen Wiedererkennungswert gab. Oft der klassischen Moderne näher, als den Traditionalisten der Szene. Und dann wäre noch Kenny Wheeler, gestählt in den Avantgarde-Bezirken der 1970er Jahre um Alexander von Schlippenbach oder davor durch Schlagzeuger John Stevens und seinem Spontaneous Music Ensemble. Doch im Grunde seines Herzens war er immer ein Poet am Instrument, ein Lyriker am Flügelhorn, der eben auch mit der Trompete zu attackieren verstand. Mit weitem Atem machte Azimuth hörbar, wozu auch ungewöhnlichere Besetzungen musikalisch in der Lage sind.

Jörg Konrad, Kultkomplott


Taylor arbeitete auf seinen analogen Synthesizern damals schon mit Loops und Patterns, die vielen Stücken einen elegisch-sphärischen Grund geben.  Darüber lässt Winstone himmlische Vokalisen schweben; einzig in ‘The Tunnel’ gibt es Text. Wheeler umgarnt alles mit schwerelosen Klängen.

Lothar Brandt, Audio / Stereoplay


Das 77er Debütalbum des ungewöhnlichen Trios aus Kenny Wheeler an Trompete und Flügelhorn, dem Pianisten John Taylor und Norma Winstone, die diese stimmlich begleitet, kreuzt mit oszillierenden Synthie-Teppichen, mal spröder, mal melodischer Bläserbegleitung sowie schwebendem Gesang durch nordische Gefühlswelten. Das Motiv des betörenden ’Siren’s Song’ spukte mir jahrelang im Kopf herum.

Matthias Böde, Stereo

Current Concerts
& Events

Dominic Miller is playing almost 50 concerts across the globe in the cominig months

John Scofield and his trio are performing in the US and Asia in April and June. Throughout the year, more solo and quartet concerts are scheduled.

Fred Hersch is touring in support of his piano solo album 'Silent, Listening'