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.
The great Swedish trio of Bobo Stenson takes a stand against indecision in a decisively beautiful new album. As ever, the trio draws upon a wide range of source materials. A yearning title song by Cuban singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez, Bartók’s adaptation of a Slovak folk song, a piece from Mompou’s Cançons I Danses collection, and Erik Satie’s Elégie are integrated into the programme, alongside original compositions by Stenson and Anders Jormin and group improvising. So strong is the group’s character and the musical identity of each of its members that the integration of this material always feels organic and logical. Stenson’s lyrical touch, Jormin’s folk-flavoured arco bass and Jon Fält’s flickering, textural drumming are all well-displayed on Contra la indecision, the trio’s first new recording in six years. Produced by Manfred Eicher, the album was recorded at Lugano’s Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI studio in May 2017.
Norwegian drummer/composer Thomas Strønen presents a revised edition of his acoustic collective Time Is A Blind Guide, now trimmed to quintet size, and with a new pianist in Wakayama-born Ayumi Tanaka. Tanaka has spoken of seeking associative connections between Japan and Norway in her improvising, a tendency Strønen seems to be encouraging with his space-conscious writing for the ensemble, letting in more light. As on the group’s eponymously-titled and critically-lauded debut album there are excellent contributions from the string players – the quintet effectively contains both a string trio and a piano trio – and Manfred Eicher’s production brings out all the fine detail in the grain of the collective sound and the halo of its overtones, captured in the famously-responsive acoustic of Lugano’s Auditorio Stelio Molo in March 2017.
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.
A fairly sleepy ECM date, this outing matches Jan Garbarek on tenor, soprano and alto with guitarist Bill Connors, John Taylor (doubling on organ and piano) and drummer Jack DeJohnette for lengthy explorations of four of his originals. With such titles as "Reflections," "Entering" and "Passing," it is not surprising that the music has plenty of space, is introspective, and often emphasizes long tones.
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.
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").