A rundown of some recent ECM Records releases: Giovanni Guidi, Jakob Bro, Jack DeJohnette and Nik Bartsch’s Mobile


ECM logoEvery now and then I give a rundown of recent releases on the ECM Records label.  They were one of the early advocates of what’s loosely termed Nordic Jazz (typically serene, ambient to the point of flirting with new age or minimalism, and often imbued with folk music from Norway or thereabouts) as well as the even more loosely termed World Jazz (jazz with specific or vague regional folk influences).  In any event, me and the music of ECM Records go way back and some of my very favorite albums were released by the label, so out of fondness if nothing else, every now and then I write up a column like this one and put down a few words about recent releases of note.

Let’s begin.


Giovanni Guidi – Ida Lupino

giovanni-guidi-ida-lupinoGiovanni Guidi has got a way of shifting his presence from background to fore without causing the slightest ripple on the surface of the song.  His melodic touch on piano resonates with amazing strength at either end of that spectrum, but it’s how he tempers it with just the right amount of restraint so the lovely harmony of trombonist Gianluca Petrella and clarinetist Louis Sclavis can just keep carrying for every last second.  And when a song calls for throwing some punches, as it does on “Jeronimo,” Guidi is able to step up and still exhibit that same tasteful restraint while getting in some one-two combos.  In a similar vein, drummer Gerald Cleaver keeps his voice on the quieter side.  This isn’t a new thing for him, but it never fails to amaze in the context of how relentless his style can be as proven on other recordings.  Not sure that any one melody on this recording isn’t gorgeous as hell, but what elevates that state of being on Ida Lupino is how the quartet keeps finding new facets to display.

Your album personnel:  Giovanni Guidi (piano), Gianluca Petrella (trombone), Louis Sclavis (clarinet, bass clarinet) and Gerald Cleaver (drums).

Stream two album tracks at the artist’s site.

Released on ECM Records.

Available at:  Amazon


Jakob Bro – Streams

jakob-bro-streamsI’m not sure anybody is able to generate a melodic presence quite like guitarist Jakob Bro.  He has a way on instilling a mood upon a recording that’s eerily similar to the way an expert filmmaker can draw in the audience with just the opening sequence of frames.  On this session, Bro returns to a trio format, joined by bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Joey Baron.  Streams doesn’t quite attain the depth of sound as his “Balladeering trio” of recordings with Bill Frisell and Lee Konitz or the large ensemble project Hymnotic/Salmodisk, but Bro is just as talented at revealing hidden facets in simpler music as he is in the complex.  The trio raises the temperature from time to time, like on “Full Moon Europa,” and sometimes they kick up the most wonderful tunefulness, like on “Shell Pink.”  But for the most part, this is an immersive experience, where melodies are something to just sink into and lose yourself for a very long time.

Your album personnel:  Jakob Bro (guitar), Thomas Morgan (double bass) and Joey Baron (drums).

Listen to an album track on the ECM site.

Released on ECM Records.

Available at:  Amazon


Jack DeJohnette, Ravi Coltrane & Matthew Garrison – In Movement

jack-dejohnette-in-movementThere’s a bunch of points to make about this excellent recording, but there’s no way anything should be said about it, ever, without first addressing the album’s title-track “In Movement.”  It’s one of the very best tracks to be released all year.  Ravi Coltrane‘s darting melodic lines on sax, Jack DeJohnette‘s susurrant chatter on drums and effects, and the bass and electronics from Matthew Garrison… they combine to create a song that is simultaneously ambient and edgy, soothing and ominous.  Some of it speaks to an old(er)-school sound, back to the In a Silent Way jazz-rock-ambient fusion.  This isn’t completely surprising, being as that DeJohnette recorded with Miles Davis during his fusion period.  But the electronic effects and the rock n’ roll grind that serves as the undercurrent of tension in the song’s latter half speaks of the present day.  That, too, isn’t surprising, since both Coltrane and Garrison are plenty happy to mix things up with forward-thinking adventurism rather than just mimic the sound of their legendary fathers.  And the mix of all these influences on an improvisational piece just feels and sounds like an alternative step forward, of a new direction the ever-evolving jazz form could take.  I want to hear an album from these three where the title-track is the seed planted in each new piece.

Not that there’s anything lacking about the rest of the album.  There’s all kind of lovely tension and fire in their rendition of John Coltrane’s “Alabama,” and they turn up the voltage a couple extra notches and switch out the tension for speed on “Rashied.”  A cover of Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Serpentine Fire” allows for some nice diversions in tempo with a groove.  A rendition of Miles Davis’s “Blue In Green” is the opportunity they take to release their foot from the gas pedal and dive into introspection.  There’s some solid work laid down here, and nothing on the album leaves the impression of something that should have been left on the studio floor.  But all of it pales in comparison to the title-track’s persona.  That alone makes this album worth the price of admission.

Your album personnel:  Jack DeJohnette (drums, piano, electronic percussion), Ravi Coltrane (tenor, soprano & sopranino saxophones) and Matthew Garrison (electric bass, electronics)

Released on ECM Records.

Available at:  Amazon


Nik Bärtsch’s Mobile – Continuum

nik-bartschs-mobile-continuumIt’s always pretty easy to assume what you’re gonna get with a Nik Bärtsch recording, and while consistently living up to expectations, he still somehow keeps putting out an album with its own personality.  His newest has him with an old/new ensemble going as Mobile, but there’s overlap with older projects and prior collaborators.  It’s on “Modul 60” that this particular group at this particular time shows what it’s all about.  The guest string quintet insinuates a cadence of slowly rolling waves, and the way that Bärtsch and crew modulate their pointilism-style rhythmic approach so that it keeps its determined pace but comes off more as raindrops softly pelting the surface of the waves, it opens up a view to a new kind of serenity.  It’s an illuminating moment and it alters the context of the entirety of the album… even those moments that are exactly what you’d expect from a Bärtsch project.  And if this synopsis is your introduction to Bärtsch’s music, this is an excellent place to start listening.

Your album personnel:  Nik Bärtsch (piano), Sha (bass clarinet, double bass, clarinet), Kaspar Rast (drums, percussion), Nicolas Stocker (drums, tuned percussion) and guests:  Etienne Abelin (violin), Ola Sendecki (violin), David Schnee (viola), Solme Hong (cello) and Ambrosius Huber (cello).

Released on ECM Records.

Available at:  Amazon