"Aquarela do Brasil," an unofficial anthem of Brazil, may have received literally thousands of different version and interpretations, but even then, Egberto and Brazilian percussionist Naná Vasconcelos (his sole accompanist here) were able to devise an extremely original version, which opens with an unassuming stylized samba introduction, slowly bringing elements which conduce the listener to the piece's identification. Egberto is very fond of percussive attacks and ethereal configurations, both acquiring superior importance in his music, not being necessarily attached to or supportive for a musical theme or melody.
Since 2001, ECM has enthusiastically championed the art of Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov with recordings of his orchestral, chamber and vocal works – creations that stand as some of the most arresting and moving in contemporary music. This continues in Silvestrov’s 75th birthday year with “Sacred Songs”, the seventh album ECM has devoted wholly to the composer’s music; it collects sets of songs, refrains, psalms and prayers composed from 2006 to 2008 that reflect the composer’s late-blooming interest in writing for a cappella voices, which led previously to the ECM releases “Requiem for Larissa” and “Sacred Works”.
The great avant-jazz drummer Andrew Cyrille – whose associations have ranged from a long collaboration with Cecil Taylor to co-leading the collective Trio 3 with Oliver Lake and Reggie Workman – makes his ECM leader debut with The Declaration of Musical Independence. Featuring a quartet with guitarist Bill Frisell, keyboardist Richard Teitelbaum and bassist Ben Street, the album kicks off with an artfully oblique interpretation of John Coltrane’s “Coltrane Time,” led by Cyrille’s solo drum intro.
On this second album by the unorthodox quartet comprised of Norwegians Grydeland, Wallumrød and Zach, and Frenchman Charles, the music continues to unfold with poetic logic and unhurried pace. To paraphrase La Monte Young, Dans les arbres draws a straight line and follows it. Their music moves gently but steadily ahead on broad planes of sound, the textural scenery changing as DLA harnesses its wealth of unorthodox extended techniques. Including but not limited to: Charles’ extraordinary control of harmonics, the prepared piano of Wallumrød perfectly matched by the prepared banjo of Grydeland and by Zach’s unprecedented use of the gran cassa, the horizontal orchestral bass drum, augmented here by metal percussion and ceramic bells. Small movements precipitate gradual sonic transformations. Sounds are carefully nurtured and encouraged to glow. Responsibilities are very equally shared as textures are blended.
After critically-lauded projects with trumpeter Paolo Fresu (Chiaroscuro) and with fellow guitarists Wolfgang Muthspiel and Slava Grigoryan (Travel Guide), Ralph Towner returns to solo guitar for My Foolish Heart. Whether on classical guitar or 12-string guitar Towner’s touch is immediately identifiable. Solo music is an important thread through his rich discography and this new album – recorded at Lugano’s Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI in February 2016 and produced by Manfred Eicher – follows in the great tradition of Diary, Solo Concert, Ana, Anthem, and Time Line. It features finely-honed new compositions as well as a pair of tunes (“Shard” and “Rewind”) from the songbook of Oregon, a dedication to the late Paul Bley (“Blue As In Bley”) and a single standard – Victor Young’s “My Foolish Heart” which Towner first came to love in Bill Evans’s interpretation.
William Byrd (1543-1623) has been called the greatest English composer, an arbiter of the sublime and master of his craft. And while discerning early music listeners have a fair number of recordings to choose from in order to put any stake into this claim, this offering from ECM is as sensitive an introduction as any into all things Byrd.
Splitting his time between the electric and acoustic pianos and a bit of organ, Jarrett teams up with drummer/percussionist Jack DeJohnette in a series of experimental duets, his only electric session for ECM. The all-acoustic title number ranges all over the lot, from tootling on a bamboo (?) flute to the energizing barrelhouse gospel riffs that would bloom in the solo concerts.
Keith Jarrett's numerous volumes of improvised solo piano recordings are all treasure troves of spontaneous music making. Documented since the 1970s, they reveal the opening of his music as it readily embraces classical and sacred music influences, filters out what is unnecessary in his technique, and encounters the depth and breadth of the jazz tradition and his own unique abilities as a composer. The four discs in A Multitude of Angels were recorded in as many Italian cities during the last week of October 1996 – some 20 months after the concert captured on La Scala.
Elegy is the ECM leader debut by vocalist and composer Theo Bleckmann. A prolific recording artist, his association with the label dates back to Meredith Monk's 2002 date Mercy and its follow-up, Impermanence, in 2008 (Bleckmann was a member of her ensemble for 15 years). His voice was also a focal point of Julia Hulsmann's quartet on 2015's Clear Midnight: Kurt Weill & America. For a singer who draws attention to himself almost as much for what he doesn't do as what he does, Elegy is a quiet yet startling offering.