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Monday, May 27, 2024

Nico Weber Kwartett - Ela (Unit Records, 2024)

By Don Phipps

The Nico Weber Kwartett’s album Ela offers beautiful music that drifts through moods seamlessly – a gliding earnest effort that delivers sonic arcs in kaleidoscopic fashion, an aural display of shifting tones and patterns. With sweeping trumpet and flugelhorn lines that generate hazy yet distinct vibes, Weber’s intense playing highlights his focused yet flowing compositions.

With distant echoes of the Lande/Isham’s 70s Rubisa Patrol, the quartet Weber has assembled provides ample room for sidemen Maxim Burtsev on piano, Jakob Jager on bass, and Leo Ebert on drums to develop the music into a holistic experience, and on two tracks, Florian Trubsbach joins in on alto saxophone.

On “Different Shades of a Dawn pt. 1,” Burtsev’s piano work flows perfectly with Jager’s (Charlie Haden-like) imploring bass counterpoint. As the number progresses, Jager offers a delicate and forthright solo. The song merges into “Closing pt.2,” which features Weber and Jager playing in unusual but stunning trumpet/bass unison. As the piece concludes, Weber takes over with soaring lines as Jager exhibits his bowing prowess.

“Weimar” demonstrates Burtsev’s precise touch on the keys. When combined with Weber’s flugelhorn, the music propels forward like a clipper being driven by the wind. On “Boris on His Pentagonal Tricycle,” Burtsev’s modal playing evolves into a Jager solo which highlights the bassist’s deft touch. Deeper into the number, the music becomes more driving, with Weber delivering an intense solo above Ebert’s floating cymbal work.

The highlight of the album may well be its title cut “Ela.” Here Burtsev opens with an urgent piano line above Ebert’s drum and cymbal. Weber on flugelhorn and Trubsbach on alto sax enter together - in unison - announcing a leaping theme. Then Weber’s flugelhorn stands alone - airy and light - helped by Ebert’s cymbal work and the energetic and bouncy Jager bass beats. Trubsbach takes over from Weber with a bird-like rolling sax exploration above Burtsev’s modal piano. The group returns to the theme - this time with Weber and Trubsbach improvising together above Burtsev ‘s lyrical lines.

With Ela, Weber has certainly put himself in the constellation of excellent horn players. Add this to his compositional skills, and Weber demonstrates a significant talent to keep an eye (and ear) on. Recommended.