The Norwegian jazz composer and guitarist Terje Rypdal's homage to Miles Davis's BITCHES BREW has all the crepuscular electric piano and muted trumpet of the original, with the addition of the atonal "That's More Like It" and the menacing electronic underpinnings of "Jungeltegrafen" emphasizing the continuing influence of contemporary musical genres on jazz.
This relatively early set from Bill Frisell is a fine showcase for the utterly unique guitarist. Frisell has the ability to play nearly any extroverted style of music and his humor (check out the date's "Music I Heard") is rarely far below the surface. This particular quintet (with trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, tuba player Bob Stewart, electric bassist Jerome Harris and drummer Paul Motian) is not exactly short of original personalities and their outing (featuring seven Frisell compositions) is one of the most lively of all the ones in the ECM catalog.
The term "cultural imperialism" is often used, justly, when Western musicians appropriate aspects of third world music for their own, watering it down to listener-friendly levels and giving scant acknowledgement to its original creators. Whereas this sort of approach has been the unfortunate rule, from Paul Simon to David Byrne, every once in a while a glorious exception emerges. Such an exception is Swedish percussionist Bengt Berger's Bitter Funeral Beer band. Berger, who devoted lengthy periods of study to West African music, particularly that of Ghana, assembled a large contingent of fellow Swedes, trained them in various aspects of West African traditions and, most importantly, chose Ghanaian folk themes with utterly beautiful and irresistible melodic lines from which to improvise.
Born in Osaka, educated at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Paris, Momo Kodama is well-placed to approach music from both Eastern and Western vantage points, as she does in this album which interweaves etudes of Claude Debussy (1862-1918) and Toshio Hosokawa (born 1955). Both composers have similarly been border-crossers. Debussy, pointing to music of the future, looked to the Orient for inspiration. Hosokawa has combined aspects of Japanese and European tradition in his contemporary compositions.
In his timeless solo concerts, Jarrett displays the uncanny ability to drop himself into a piece of improvised music as if it has been playing invisibly in the ether all along, requiring him only to pick up from whichever measure he encounters and leave the music to continue on after he has left the stage. This album predates Jarrett’s Köln concert by just two years and was the one that really put him on the map before that legendary successor. Yet we cannot simply say that Jarrett is channeling the cosmos and leave it at that, for he inhabits a melodic space that is tangible, his own. Though filed under jazz, this music is something far more than any generic summary could express. Still, I persist in trying.
This gargantuan package – a ten-LP set now compressed into a chunky six-CD box – once was derided as the ultimate ego trip, probably by many who didn't take the time to hear it all. You have to go back to Art Tatum's solo records for Norman Granz in the '50s to find another large single outpouring of solo jazz piano like this, all of it improvised on the wing before five Japanese audiences in Kyoto, Osaka, Nagoya, Tokyo, and Sapporo. Yet the miracle is how consistently good much of this giant box is.
Excellent addition to any jazz-fusion music collection
I'm afraid I cannot discuss this album in terms of "meribolant soul melodies" or such, but if you're looking for a peaceful and relaxed solo album from one of the top jazz guitarists, CHARACTERS might be just right for you.
Pianist Nik Bärtsch's Zurich quintet Ronin has released a handful of recordings, but Holon is only the second released in the United States. When Stoa was issued in 2006, it was like this startling blast of air. Was it jazz? Was it minimalist classical music? Was it acoustic techno? Bärtsch calls it "zen funk." OK, fair enough, but in actuality, while it bears traces and borrows elements from all of the aforementioned genres, Ronin is its own animal, its own sound, its own complex yet utterly accessible musical identity or, better, brand. They have toured relentlessly all over the world, and as a result, this quintet is not only well seasoned, but also it has taken the music up the ladder a couple of rungs.
The 2010 ECM album Purcor - Songs for Saxophone and Piano features tenor/soprano saxophonist Trygve Seim and pianist Andreas Utnem dueting on various original and traditional compositions. Although this is the first time the two musicians have recorded together, their partnership extends back to the mid-'90s when Utnem, working with Norway's Church City Mission foundation, invited Seim to perform with him at several church services. Choosing from a mix of liturgical compositions for mass and some original pieces, Utnem then played in his own classical- and jazz-based style while Seim improvised around him. The result, as heard on this album, is a kind of hybrid of classical, jazz, and folk styles fits nicely into the softly introspective, and cerebral ECM approach.
Here Garbarek is approaching the extremes of his style, appearing once again with the Jan Garbarek Group. He has his usual stark, meditative pieces, interspersed with some cutting-edge work, occasionally spinning just enough out of control to be exciting. And in other places he ventures headlong into the syrupy fields of Kenny G.-land. All pieces on this record are titled after quotes from poems by Tomas Transtromer, and though the actual connection to these poems remains tenuous at best, they do add a provocative element to the pieces themselves, which beg for at least some programmatic interpretation. Excellent bass work by Eberhard Weber, particularly on the more avant-garde pieces (e.g., "The Crossing Place" and "One Day in March I Go Down to the Sea and Listen"). Multi-instrumentalist David Torn is primarily responsible for the more aggressive edge this record takes.