Italian pianist and composer Stefano Battaglia has recorded three previous offerings for ECM, all in different settings. Interestingly, The River of Anyder is his first to feature his trio, with bassist Salvatore Maiore and drummer/percussionist Roberto Dani. Battaglia, formerly a classical pianist, approaches composition and improvisation from that vantage point. When he does enter the jazz realm, it is through Italy's own grand jazz tradition from the '70s era on.
As one of ECM’s most passionate and prolific contributors, Jan Garbarek has left us with a varicolored, sometimes watery, archive. For All Those Born With Wings, the Norwegian saxophonist went solo, painting an evocative album of relic-laden vistas. The result is a six-part session filled with a variety of instruments and tastes. The hammered dulcimer is a welcome sound to the Garbarek palette, and is used tastefully in the 1st Part, where Garbarek’s saxophone refracts into a flock of large-winged birds. An army of chants floods the 2nd Part, as martial drums resound like the introductory sequence of a classic martial arts film.
This reissue of Fusion and Thesis, the two albums the new Jimmy Giuffre 3 made in 1961, prior to their breakthrough and breakup in 1962, is nothing short of a revelation musically. Originally produced by Creed Taylor, who was still respectable back then, the two LPs have been complete remixed and remastered by ECM proprietor and chief producer Manfred Eicher and Jean Philippe Allard and contain complete material from both sessions resulting in one new track on Fusion and three more on Thesis.
Arild Andersen found one of his clearest avenues of expression with Masqualero, a group that brought him notably together with trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer, saxophonist Tore Brunborg, and drummer Jon Christensen. On Aero, the group’s second album for ECM, he is joined also by Frode Alnaes, whose looming drones ebb and flow throughout the title opener, which seems to materialize out of nothing into a looming figure of delicate comportment and elegant mind. It is this figure whose footsteps Andersen articulates. In “Science” this figure shows us it can dance, fashioning a partner out of snatches of rain and cloud, autumn and snowdrift. The confidence of that stride is expressed in the superb dynamic contrasts of the band, only to be unraveled through Brunborg’s platonic soprano into a sonorous vulnerability.
Though in step with its time, this release suffers from excessive reliance on ambient synthesizers, which litter much of the recording, rendering it only slightly more interesting than many of the Windham Hill new age recordings of the same era. Unfortunate, because the disc opens with strength and gradually peters out by the end. The disc opens with "He Came From the North," which features a melody based on a traditional Lapp joik from the artist's native Norway and progresses into a longer section with an interplay that is both sparse and rhythmic. The sax line here is astonishingly beautiful. The second piece, "Alchuri, the Song Man," a sax and percussion piece, is energetic and lively as well. And from here the energy gradually diminishes. Much can be attributed to popular styles of the time, but this release simply does not stand up to other music of its genre that came later.
Since founded in 1969 by Manfred Eicher, ECM Records (Edition of Contemporary Music) have released more than 1200 albums in a catalogue that boasts some of the most important artists of the last fifty years. Eicher’s talent for spotting the right artists to record for his label, and the quality of the finished product in terms of recording, production and artwork have transcended the labels initial reputation of having the ‘ECM sound’ to being acknowledged as producing music of exceptional quality in terms of both performance and recorded sound.
In addition to his solo piano concerts and the American group he led that featured tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman, Keith Jarrett was also busy in the mid-'70s with his European band, a quartet comprised of Jan Garbarek on tenor and soprano, bassist Palle Danielsson, and drummer Jon Christensen. Due to the popularity of the haunting "My Song," this album is the best known of the Jarrett-Garbarek collaborations and it actually is their most rewarding meeting on record. Jarrett contributed all six compositions and the results are relaxed and introspective yet full of inner tension.
There is a lot of music on this set, including the 30-minute "Oasis." This is a Live at the Village Vanguard recording by pianist Keith Jarrett and his European quartet (Jan Garbarek on soprano and tenor, bassist Palle Danielsson and drummer Jon Christensen). The pianist very much dominates the music but Garbarek's unique floating tone on his instruments and the subtle accompaniment by Danielsson and Christensen are also noteworthy.
British pianist Django Bates returns to ECM with one of his very finest constellations, the trio Belovèd, with Swedish bassist Petter Eldh and Danish drummer Peter Bruun, and an aptly named album, "The Study of Touch". All three musicians are highly individual players, subtly challenging the conventions of the jazz piano trio.
The evocative ECM debut of the outstanding Hungarian guitarist Zsófia Boros addresses a broad range of composition for her instrument, drawing on music of the Americas. “Often I think I am holding the choice of music in my own hands, but later I wonder if the music has chosen me as a medium. My approach is always very intuitive; when a piece of music grips or touches me, I want to reflect it – to become a mirror and convey it.”