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Friday, November 13, 2009

ECM ... melancholy trumpets

Some decades ago, the only jazz I listened to was ECM jazz, Jarrett, Garbarek, Gismonti, Towner, John Abercrombie, John Surman ... slowly moving towards Arts Ensemble Of Chicago, Old & New Dreams, also on ECM, and opening in my young mind suddenly totally new realms of music, and ECM was soon almost forgotten, even though for many years it was the only label (almost) that I bought LPs from. The German label has kept its carefully nurtured positioning of chamber jazz, often inobtrusive, yet always of superb quality, both of the selected musicians as for the quality of its productions (sound, art work, booklets, ...). You can debate about the style and the lack of adventure, but on some evenings, on a Friday night, when you're flat out, everything is dark outside, the autumn wind blows, rain hits the windows, and the fire place heats the room, ... melancholy hits. The music is not guaranteed to keep you awake, but it is certainly to be enjoyed.

Ralph Towner & Paolo Fresu - Chiaroscuro (ECM, 2009) ****

Ralph Towner is a brilliant guitarist, in a genre all of his own, playing nylon-string and twelve-string guitar, with an incredible precision and sense of pace and rhythm, even if not always explicit. Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu used to be a Miles Davis epigone, yet to his credit he managed to create his own voice in jazz. On this painfully beautiful and melancholy album they treat you to eight new compositions and Miles Davis' "Blue In Green". No surprises, yet a beautiful album.

Tomasz Stanko - Dark Eyes (ECM, 2009) ****

Many trumpeters have tried to emulate his style, but few have come close. Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko is without a doubt the most melancholy musician I know, yet he is musically so strong that most of his compositions and performances are captivating and gripping. Those who tried to copy him, often landed into meaningless slobbering and moaning. On this album he is accompanied by young Scandinavian musicians : pianist Alexi Tuomarila and drummer Olavi Louhivuori from Finland, and guitarist Jakob Bro, and bassist Anders Christensen from Denmark. Nothing new here either, just again a fine album, and without a doubt among his best.

The title of the album is inspired by a painting by Polish artist Oskar Kokoschka, called Martha Hirsch.

© stef


joesh said...

Yes, it seems as though ECM used to also support a lot more 'adventurous' music at one time. in fact there's still a few (many) records they never re-released. In a way ECM kind of gave people a chance to discover - back in the 70s - some very interesting new sounds ; Barre Phillips, John Surman, Edward Vesela, Tom Stanko, early Garbarek and the whole Norwegian scene, and the list goes on.

Well done ECM

Monterey Bay Pacific Coast LifeStyles Network said...

HI great information about such creative musicians. I live here in Monterey California where we have the Monterey Jazz Festival each year in September...a few of us here really enjoy your writing !!

If you get a chance come by and say hello at my Monterey City blog

Maciej Nowotny (Editor) said...

Nice post. Well I believe ECM is something like Blue Note back in 50s or 60s. Their influence on jazz is immense. Of course there are so many interesting things in contemporary jazz that to limit oneself to just ECM would be unwise. So naturally you grown out of ECM as many of us did but without ECM where would we all be?
As for Stanko new album. I have slightly different opinion. It seems to me in fact in many ways so much different than previous Stanko albums. It goes the way Stanko showed when playing on Manu Katche "Neighbouhood": much more accesible, listenable, melodic music. And even more so at concerts :-))) For me that's rather big change (and the one I enjoy).
Cheers :-)