Athens-born and Munich-based composer Konstantia Gourzi makes her ECM New Series label debut. “What historical voices commingle in the current idiom of a composer whose cultural roots lie in the birthplace of rhetoric, but who emigrated to take a musical apprenticeship in European constructivism?” asks Ingrid Allwardt in the liner notes.
The second recording by Old and New Dreams was, like its first from three years earlier, named after the group. Trumpeter Don Cherry, tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman, bassist Charlie Haden, and drummer Ed Blackwell made for a mighty team, performing high-quality free bop in the tradition of the Ornette Coleman Quartet (of which they were all alumni). In addition to two of Ornette's tunes (including a lengthy exploration of "Lonely Woman"), the musicians each contributed an original of their own. Stirring music in a setting that always brought out the best in each of these musicians.
Violin virtuoso Paul Giger revisits his roots with this, his second solo recording, Alpstein, which features pieces for violin, saxophone, and percussion based on the folk traditions of the Alpstein region of Switzerland. Three pieces here are entitled "Zäuerli" – named after the sad majestic "natur yodel" tradition of the Outer Rhoden region. These are sweeping and majestic with high harmonic bowstrokes. This recording features the saxophone work of Jan Garbarek and the percussion of Pierre Favre. Both add an incredible warmth to the recording on the pieces they are featured on, most notably "Alpsegen" with its soaring sax lines and manic percussion. Also notable is "Chlauseschuppel," featuring the sounds of cowbells specific to that region. Informative booklet included.
Norwegian guitarist Jacob Young’s sophomore effort follows coolly on the heels of his debut, Evening Falls. The wealth of Scandinavian talent at his side is enviable, to say the least. Trumpeter Mathias Eick, reedman Vidar Johansen, bassist Mats Eilertsen, and drummer Jon Christensen bring their uniquely tessellated feel for rhythm and hues to ten of Young’s originals, of which the title track sets the stage with the bandleader’s unmistakable acoustic. Mallet-caressed cymbals, trumpet, bass clarinet, and upright bass comingle in simpatico resonance, riding a slow and steady frequency from start to finish.
The December 1999 sessions that produced The Water Is Wide yielded enough material for a second album. Hyperion With Higgins is the result, and its title reflects the sad fact that Billy Higgins, Lloyd's friend and soul mate and the session's drummer, passed away not long after the music was put to tape. The music's spiritual quality is heightened by the after-the-fact dedication. Quite unlike The Water Is Wide, Hyperion With Higgins is comprised entirely of Lloyd's original compositions, although the same lineup is featured: Lloyd, Higgins, John Abercrombie, Brad Mehldau, and Larry Grenadier.
This is arguably the first recording to fully flesh out the aural expanse for which ECM has come to be known. Although I am well aware of the immense groundswell of musical activity that was the 1970s, certainly an album like this was a refreshing and altogether mind-altering experience for those fortunate enough to be young musical explorers at the time. Featuring a lineup of musicians who would go on to weave ECM’s significance into the fabric of time, Solstice is a tour de force of musicianship, writing, arrangement, and recording.
"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.