03.11.2023 | Reviews of the week
More praise from German media for the recording of C.P.E. Bach’s Württemberg Sonatas by Keith Jarrett
Die kompositorische Freiheit wird hier keineswegs als Aufforderung zu interpretatorischer Willkür missverstanden, vielmehr als Mittel einer ungemein differenzierten Dynamik, fein ausgehorchten Akzentuierung und klangfarbenreichen Phrasierung genutzt. […] Was vor allem besticht, ist die behutsame Anschlagskultur, die erkennen lässt, wie sehr sich Jarrett jener Umbruchszeit bewusst ist, in der das nur über eine Stufendynamik verfügende, zierlich starre Cembalo noch im Gebrauch war […] Jarrett übertreibt auf dem modernen Flügel nie, lässt die kühnen Harmoniewechsel […] nahezu selbst ihren Reiz des Überraschenden entfalten. Dann wieder gelingt ihm eine ganz natürlich erscheinende Schönheit des einzelnen Tons in den unterschiedlichen Andante-Sätzen, ein unaufgeregt heiterer Tonfall im Poco allegro der As-Dur-Sonate, ein ausdrucksvolles Melos ohnehin. Und über allen schwebt jene ästhetische Übereinkunft, die auch bei Bach an erster Stelle stand: der gute Geschmack.
Wolfgang Sandner, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Jarrett zeigt sich als famoser Kenner der Materie, findet den richtigen Zugang zu diesem als ‘empfindsam’ bezeichneten Stil, der seine Zuhörer vor allem überraschen sollte und daher soviele charakterliche Wechsel in sich birgt. Jarrett kann mit einer nuancenreichen Anschlagtechnik aufwarten, die sein Spiel immer schon kennzeichnete. Doch gerade die Tempi sind so geschickt, die Akzente auf dem modernen Flügel so eindringlich gewählt, dass er eine intensive wie spannungsgeladene Interpretation dieser ohnehin fantastischen Sonaten liefert, die man in dieser Sicherheit und gleichzeitigen Freiheit nur selten hört.
Carsten Dürer, Piano News
The album Uncle John’s Band by the John Scofield continues to attract international acclaim
Though this double album features seven Scofield originals and seven covers, it is no roots-and-branches concept album. Far from it. In Scofield’s hands the bridges between ’40s bebop and contemporary improvisation or between ’60s folk and wicked groove-based romps are smooth, aided in no small measure by the agility and verve of drummer Bill Stewart and bassist Vicente Archer. Few know Scofield’s playing as well as Stewart, an on-off collaborator since the early 1990s. […] Not for nothing does this sound like a road-seasoned band of brothers. Of the covers, Bob Dylan’s ‘Mr. Tambourine Man,’ Neil Young’s ‘Old Man’ and Grateful Dead’s ‘Uncle John’s Band’ provide the juiciest bones for fresh-sounding collective improvisation, so far removed are they, at least rhythmically, from the jazz tradition. Loops course through the Dylan classic like a tanpura drone and a quasi-Indian, note-bending quality is just one of the colors that filters through in Scofield’s soloing. […] The trio’s broiling interplay is arguably at its keenest on Scofield’s originals, with the swinging ‘TV Band,’ the folksy ‘Back in Time’ (with its echoes of ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home’) and the irresistible, funk-laced ‘Mo Green’ being standouts. But amidst all the bustle and flexing, ‘Stairway to the Stars’ and ‘Somewhere’ lend quietly beguiling credence to the rarely voiced notion that Scofield is as good a balladeer as any out there.
Ian Patterson, All About Jazz
Though Scofield’s recordings are always high quality, ‘Uncle John’s Band’ captures this trio’s spontaneity, magic, and risk-taking in a recording studio for the very first time.
Thom Jurek, All Music
This fourteen track double album set opens with a real toe-tapper ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ and at around nine minutes gives the chance for the trio to shine. ‘How Deep’ is a complete joy and is a really swinging tune, as is ‘Budo’ and gives Bill Stewart a chance to glow. If you enjoy jazz ballads, ‘Stairway to the Stars’ simply can’t be surpassed, and yet, ‘Somewhere’ comes very close to doing so. ‘Mo Green’ allows the guitarist to show his blues-rock-inspired side – wonderful. ‘Ray’s Idea’ has to be my own favourite track, it’s a little swinging delight. There really are too many musical gems here to detail them individually, suffice to say that any fan of John Scofield and his music will not be disappointed. This is an album that I will be returning to again and again over the coming weeks.
Alan Musson, UK Vibe
Toujours incisif et vert, le légendaire guitarist John Scofield acrée un remarquable trio en compagnie du contrebassiste Vicente Archer et du fidèle batteur Bill Stewart pour continuer à declarer son immense amour pour la musique populaire américaine.
Paul Jaillet, Jazz Magazine
Au sommet de son art, virtuose et humble à la fois,capable de mobiliser toutes les sources musicales qui l’habitent, le guitariste semble jubiler dans chaque note jouée, porté par ce qui ressemble fort à de la gourmandise. ‘Uncle John’s Band’ est une declaration d’amour non seulement à toutes les musiques qui’ il aime, mais aussi et surtout à la vie.
Denis Desassis, Citizen Jazz
A UK reviewer on the album Wind And Sun by Sinikka Langeland
The Norwegian Langeland’s previous ECM releases have featured settings of the work of such notable Nordic poets as Edith Södergran, Olav H. Hauge and Tomas Tranströmer. Her recent ‘Wolf Rune’ included some striking material by the contemporary Norwegian poet Jon Fosse (born 1959). Here Fosse’s work features exclusively, sometimes in suite-like form, together with some related instrumental pieces. […] The questing, affirmative nature of Fosse’s spare yet resonant lines is caught to perfection by Langeland on vocals, kantele and Jew’s harp, complemented by adroit, diversely pitched and developed contributions from the melodically oriented and tonally distinctive Eick (t) and Seim(ts,ss), Eilertsen (b) and Strønen. […] ‘Wind And Sun’ features a most subtle range of shifting pulse and rhythmic impetus, including the irresistible laid-back Latin grooves of ‘The Love’ and the freshly cast, near-walking bass quality of the meditative yet blues-aware and finger-clicking concluding suite which is kicked off by ‘You Hear My Heart Come.’ Could such beautiful, folk-touched, mood-rich and mesmerising music be jazz? You bet!
Michael Tucker, Jazz Journal
UK and US media on the album Dance of the Elders by Wolfgang Muthspiel with Scott Colley and Brian Blade
Deeply imbued in classical music (jazz came later), it’s no surprise to hear Muthspiel embracing a Bach chorale, although typically he starts from an improvisational space pitched against Colley’s arco bass. The Bach theme magically appears only briefly at the climax, resolving the steel acoustic’s meditation […] And when you thought the gentle giant could fly no higher, in flows Joni’s ’Amelia’. Here and throughout Blade’s spacious yet precise drums give Muthspiel all the room he needs yet never cease to surprise with colours and shapes that reflect the decade or so that he and Muthspiel have collaborated. A gift of an album, which words are too clumsy to describe. Just buy it.
Andy Robson, Jazzwise (Editor’s choice)
In a musical landscape often dictated by genre-bending fusion and high-octane virtuosity, Wolfgang Muthspiel’s latest album, ‘Dance of the Elders’, offers a refreshing blend of complexity and coherence. The Austrian guitarist, long revered for his intricate compositional techniques and nuanced guitar work, reunites with bassist Scott Colley and drummer Brian Blade in a follow-up to their lauded previous release, ‘Angular Blues.’ Together, they have crafted an opus that defies modern jazz’s limitations and encapsulates folk, classical, and world music elements. Muthspiel is a jazz guitarist with an expansive musical palette. He is flanked by Colley, a bassist whose reputation for innovative playing precedes him, and Blade, a drummer known for his textural approach and dynamic range. Together, the trio presents a unique blend of skills, bound by a chemistry honed through years of collaboration and extensive touring. Their partnership shows what’s possible when musicians of this caliber come together, creating a canvas that allows each artist to paint with their unique palette of sounds. ‘Dance of the Elders’ arrives as a significant statement in Muthspiel’s discography. Building upon the successes of previous works, it broadens the ensemble’s explorations into new musical territories. At its core, the album seeks to engage listeners in a journey—one that incorporates a wide array of influences while offering a cohesive narrative that only seasoned musicians could present. This creative vision comes to life in a meticulous track-by-track narrative that is a singular accomplishment in today’s jazz landscape.
Illiam Sebitz, 5 Finger Reviews
A US reviewer on the album Thunder by Stephan Micus
The opening cut, ‘A Song for Thor’, truly does evoke the thunderous power of a Norse god. As the album proceeds, it is fascinating to hear the sounds of the instruments – all played by Micus, through the miracle of overdubbing – instruments from Tibet, India, Burma, Borneo, Siberia, Japan, South America, Gambia, Namibia, Sweden, and Bavaria. […] ‘Thunder’ delivers the goods, sounding like powerful chamber music with a world music twist. Engineered to ECM’s usual high standard, it’s quite an impressive show as well.
Karl W. Nehring, Classical Candor
Another international reaction to the album Reminiscentiae with music by Veljo Tormis
Together with Arvo Pärt and Erkki-Sven Tüür, Veljo Tormis is probably the best known Estonian composer. He primarily was a choral composer with more than 500 works to his credit, but his oeuvre also encompassed orchestral music, film music, an opera and more. When he turned 70 in 2000 he announced that he ‘would officially draw an end to his creative career and retire’ – and he did, insofar as he never composed a new work, but spent another fifteen years editing and transcribing earlier compositions, supervising recordings etc. The result of this work is to a certain extent the contents of this disc. Tõnu Kaljuste, who collaborated with Tormis for many decades, has contributed to it. The overriding title is very telling: this is in many respects a matter of old wine in new bottles. For me, as a longstanding admirer of Tormis’ choral writing, the orchestral works came as a pleasant surprise. His choral music has a special twist that makes him stand out; his orchestral sound is also very individual. […] Those of us who admire Veljo Tormis – and we are quite a few – should order a copy without delay, and those who have not yet come under his spell, should at least give him a try.
Göran Forsling, Music Web International
The freshly released vinyl re-issue of Keith Jarrett’s legendary Solo Concerts: Bremen/Lausanne within the Luminessence series is welcomed by UK and German reviewers
By the time the recordings from Bremen and Lausanne were made, Jarrett was fully aware of his concept for solo recitals, and the decision to start with a blank canvas and allow the music to flow in spontaneous improvisation was fully realized. The pianist was able to conceive music in the moment that was dramatic, tender, compelling, and most importantly, communicated instantly to the audiences in attendance. If, as already stated, ‘The Köln Concert’ was the breakthrough album, the music presented here is just as valuable and very different from the music recorded some eighteen months later. Indeed, the two concerts that make up the re-issued 3-LP set are also quite different in style and content. Recorded just a few months apart, they are different concerts in terms of the variety of the music presented in each, and from a qualitative point of view, they are inseparable. […] It took some nerve after the release of ‘Facing You’ to go all out with a 3-LP set of solo piano improvisation, but fifty years on, we can be so glad that the music was captured and released in its entirety. A remarkable concert that would lead to many more, and we are all the richer for it.
Nick Lea, Jazz Views
As to the contents: it’s all of an amazingly high standard, but the opening Bremen side, and the closing Lausanne, are of a different order entirely, totally out there, on a level of genius-quality improvising that it’s hard to credit. […] Fifty years old, and appropriately for a box-set, it sounds entirely box-fresh.
Phil Johnson, London Jazz News
Ihr Klang ist jedenfalls hervorragend – was Dynamik, Tiefe des Klangbildes, Klangfarben und Ausklingverhalten des Flügels angeht. So ist hier en détail zu hören, wie Jarrett, beginnend mit kleinsten melodischen Elementen, immer größere und sich eigenständig entwickelnde musikalische Gebilde erschafft, in deren konzentriertem und kaum zu durchdringendem Zentrum sich gewaltige Kräfte aufbauen.
Joachim Weis, Jazzthetik