A brief round-up of recent ECM Records releases (Part I)


So, here’s some quick hits on a handful of the albums released on the ECM Records label thus far in 2014.  It’s not comprehensive.  It’s just the ones I felt like talking about.  This is Part I.  Part II posts tomorrow.

Let’s begin…


Marcin Wasilewski Trio – Spark of Life

Marcin Wasilewski Trio - "Spark of Life"Gorgeous new recording from the Marcin Wasilewski Trio, who have put out some of the best things on ECM Records over the last handful of years (ie, 2008’s January as Exhibit A).  On their newest, they add the tenor saxophone of Joakim Milder.  Two things of importance to note:  One, Milder’s sax appears on only some of the tracks, and, two, when he does contribute, it does nothing to shatter the gorgeous serenity that signifies so much of Wasilewski’s music.  In fact, Milder susses out some elements of the trio’s sound not readily apparent when it’s just the three.  A very welcome addition to the fold.  Marcin keeps coming up with wonderful new compositions, while also giving a nice take on songs like Komeda’s “Sleep Safe and Warm,” the Police’s “Message in a Bottle,” and Herbie Hancock’s “Actual Proof.”  Arguably the best thing to come out on ECM Records in 2014, and an excellent addition to Wasilewski’s increasingly impressive discography.


Colin Vallon Trio – Le Vent

Colin Vallon - "Le Vent"Sophomore release on ECM Records by pianist Colin Vallon, which doesn’t quite match up with his 2011 release Rruga one of the best things to come out that year.  Le Vent has a wider range of expressions, with clashes and counterattacks providing more heat whereas Rruga was a peaceful album that emanated a distant, but powerful intensity, like the resonance of storm clouds approaching from far away, full of lightning and the faint grumble of thunder.  Le Vent lacks that presence.  On the other hand, it has plenty of its predecessor’s serenity.  It’s just more willing to shatter it.  That’s not a bad thing.  Vallon is definitely one to keep an eye on.


Wolfgang Muthspiel – Driftwood

Wolfgang Muthspiel - "Driftwood"Enjoyable trio session from guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel, drummer Brian Blade and bassist Larry Grenadier.  Best moments are when Muthspiel is on steel-stringed guitar.  Those tunes have an earthiness and beauty, both, reminiscent of some of Ralph Towner’s work on the same label.  All three musicians are in synch and just sound to be having a fun time interacting in the studio.  Worth noting, this album is waaaaay better than the last album that resulted from a Muthspiel-Blade collaboration, the unfortunate Friendly Travelers.


Aaron Parks – Arborescence

Aaron Parks - "Arborescence"It’s the slow builds of intensity that reflects the best traits of this Aaron Parks solo session.  Introspective music that attains energy through repetition and accumulation.  It’s Nik Bartsch’s Ronin without the grooves or, taken from the other direction, a visceral daydream given life as a sonic experience. Good stuff either way you look at it.  One of those absorbing solo piano sessions that just establishes a point of view and doesn’t yield it until its said all there is to say.


Jacob Young – Forever Young

Jacob Young - "Forever Young"Disappointing release from guitarist Jacob Young, who sticks too far to the background with vanilla comping and lets saxophonist Trvgve Seim leave his footprints all over the recording.  This misstep has further implications in that Young is joined by the Marcin Wasilewski Trio for this session, and they, too, are drowned out except in some rare instances.  There’s nothing wrong with Seim’s playing, per se, it’s just that he brings a big sound to a small session.  It’s a shame, too, because Young’s 2008 release Sideways was all kinds of beautiful moodiness and had him working in perfect tandem with the wind instruments.  He could’ve really used the same delicate touch on his newest.


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