Jun 8 2015
A brief round-up of recent ECM Records releases (Part 3), featuring: Jakob Bro, Elina Duni Quartet, Giovanni Guidi Trio, Eberhard Weber and Anouar Brahem
So, here’s some quick hits on a handful of the albums released on the ECM Records label thus far in 2015. It’s by no means comprehensive. It’s just the ones I felt like talking about. These aren’t reviews. They’re just brief opinions, and comprise very little time writing but lots of time listening. A few of these albums also appear in various This Is Jazz Today columns or have proper write-ups on this site. I link to stuff where I deem appropriate.
This is Part 3. Part 4 posts tomorrow or Wednesday or next Monday. There may be a Part 5 in the works, too, but I’m thinking I’ll put that off for a couple months. I’m sort of liking the way the 2-part bundles play out.
Speaking of those bundles, feel free to read Part 1 (LINK) and Part 2 (LINK). Between Bird is the Worm and my various columns on eMusic 17 Dots and Wondering Sound, I’ve written plenty more about various ECM releases, but this round-up column is a new thing and its “start date” is rather arbitrary.
A note: Of no small irritation to me is the inability to embed any album tracks, either via Soundcloud or the “ECM Player,” which is an ECM in-house audio player. I would love for you to be able to simply press play and listen as you read the column. That said, ECM does stream an album track on their site… so they get credit for that, definitely. At the bottom of each synopsis/opinion, there’s a link to where you can stream an album track. I’ve got it set up to where it opens a new window/tab, so go ahead and click that thing for each album rundown… it’ll begin playing automatically. The link will also lead you to some excellent information on each album, in case you want to read more.
Okay, that was a long preamble. Let’s begin…
Jakob Bro – Gefion
Back when it first came out, Gefion was the Album of the Week for that particular This Is Jazz Today column, narrowly beating out the excellent new album by Anat Cohen. I’ve got about five months of this album under my belt now, and I still feel no less strongly about Bro’s gorgeous new album (nor, for that matter, the Cohen recording). Guitarist Jakob Bro has repeatedly shown a talent for bringing a melodic liveliness to serene music. His newest features more of his strangely alluring mix of jazz and folk and ambient soundscapes. And though it possesses the ingredients that typically complete your basic Nordic Jazz recording, Bro’s expressionism doesn’t fit so neatly into that general category. Even when he’s being structurally obtuse, his music possesses a form and presence and melodic incisiveness that proves elusive to categorization. His newest has him in a trio formation, joined by bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Jon Christensen. Just too beautiful.
Elina Duni Quartet – Dallëndyshe
Rather enjoyable recording from vocalist Elina Duni, who finds her own personal meeting point between the Nordic-jazz sound and Balkan music. Her vocals hit upon the latter influence, while the well-chosen trio of pianist Colin Vallon, double bassist Patrice Moret and drummer Norbert Pfammatter works the former. The album’s winning quality is the quartet’s deft balance of personable folksiness and contemplative intensity. Like staring at a face covered in a warm smile but lost deep in thought, the mixed messages keep the music pretty damn engaging. Also, there’s plenty of moments of pure beauty, to boot. It’s not an album that I’ll ever feel compelled to return to asap, but every time it’s come on my stereo, I’ve found myself happily immersing myself into the music.
Giovanni Guidi Trio – This Is The Day
This is the kind of ambient quasi-jazz piano trio session that ECM has become known for, and in the case of This Is The Day, it’s a sign of strength. Far too many of the piano trio recordings released on ECM are lifeless, unmemorable sessions that fall under the category of “why bother?” The trio of pianist Giovanni Guidi, double bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer João Lobo strike the right balance of serene bliss and firecracker liveliness. It’s music that can put you in a dreamy state of mind, but keeps things sufficiently interesting so that the ear is always engaged and there’s never a risk of falling off into sleep. It’s a solid album. I wouldn’t put it up there with modern ECM piano trio masterpieces like Marcin Wasilewski Trio’s January or Colin Vallon Trio’s Rruga, but if this particular niche is something that typically floats your boat, then This Is The Day is a pretty safe bet.
Eberhard Weber – Encore
Since suffering a stroke that left him tragically unable to perform on bass, Eberhard Weber has started doing this thing where he goes to the vaults and picks out music from live recordings, then sits down in the studio and, like a collage or maybe a jigsaw puzzle, reorganizes, adds, embellishes and reproduces the music into something brand new. And it does sound new. It also doesn’t much impress. It’s got its pretty moments, but for the most part, it sounds like ambient music noodling and not much more. Could Encore (or his previous album, Résumé, which applies the same methods) be a nice early-morning dose of new age music that soothes the listener awake without doing much in the way of challenging the ear? Speaking from personal experience, yes, absolutely. But there’s better albums out there than this if that’s your need. If you’re (relatively) new to Weber’s music, I say skip this album (and its predecessor) and experience the true beauty of Weber’s music by scooping up some of his studio recordings. Me, I’d recommend Colours of Chloe and Silent Feet. Hardcore Weber fans will probably find plenty here to like, if for no other reason than to get a glimpse at how the creativity manifests in an artist who can no longer use the main tool of his trade.
Amouar Brahem – Souvenance
One of the stronger discographies on the ECM label is from oudist Anouar Brahem. His mix of chamber, folk, and ambient jazz is about as captivating as anything you’ll find on ECM. On his 2015 release, Souvenance, Brahem gets back to the chamber-folk hypnotics that have served him so well on earlier recordings. He does this with a revamped line-up and, intriguingly, a contribution from Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana. It’s a recording with some massively stunning moments of sheer beauty and drama, and it’s rare for much time to pass before I’m hitting the play button on it yet again.
I wrote a lengthier piece on the recording earlier this year. Follow this LINK to read more about the album.
And here’s a promo video featuring an album track from Souvenance (the music picks up at the 50 second mark)…