Tuesday, April 12, 2011

ECM New releases - April

Terje Rypdal/Miroslav Vitous/Jack DeJohnette
Terje Rypdal guitar, guitar synthesizer, organ
Miroslav Vitous double-bass, electric piano
Jack DeJohnette drums
Recorded June 1978 at Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Terje Rypdal/Miroslav Vitous/Jack DeJohnette joins its eponymous crew in a one-off trio date for the ages. Although billed as something of a Rypdal venture, the album is primarily a canvas for Vitous, who bubbles forth with all the viscous potency of oil from a crack in the earth. The bassist and Weather Report founder culls from that selfsame influential oeuvre his classic tune, “Will” (a lilting and sentimental ride which made its first appearance on Sweetnighter), and pairs it with “Believer,” another original that is more Rypdal-driven. These two form the heart of a tripartite experience that begins with a pair of Rypdals. The first of these, “Sunrise,” floats in on DeJohnette’s scurrying drums, spurred by the air currents of Rypdal’s Fender Rhodes. Suspended plucking from bass stands out like heat lightning against Rypdal’s grittier monologues. Overdubs balance out the spacious surroundings with their fallow echoes. The guitar dominates here, its trembling accents seeming to grab clouds by their collars and shake them until melodies come falling out in patchy storms. He scrapes his pick along the strings, as if tearing holes in the very fabric of space-time. With respectful stealth, his gorgeous chording in “Den Forste Sne” manages to undercut the bowed bass, the latter recalling the tender songs of David Darling. This one is a stunner in its grandiose intimacy, accentuated all the more by Rypdal’s low-flying passes. We end with a diptych of group improvisations, each the shadow of the other. Between the frenetic syncopations of “Flight” and the pointillism of “Seasons,” we are given plenty of poetry with which to narrate our inner lives.
While, arguably, a pronounced variety of modes would have made this a “stronger” record, it seems content in being the languid organism that it is, and constitutes another enchanting landscape deservedly hung in the hallowed ECM Touchstones gallery. It might not be the best place to start, but what a detour to be had along the way

Art Ensemble of Chicago

Lester Bowie trumpet, celeste, bass drum

Joseph Jarman reeds, percussion, vocal
Roscoe Mitchell reeds, percussion
Malachi Favors Maghostus bass, percussion, melodica
Famoudou Don Moye drums, percussion, vocal

Recorded May 1978 at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher

The legendary Art Ensemble of Chicago, currently in their fifth decade of activity, ended a five-year studio silence with Nice Guys, their debut for ECM at the pinnacle of the label’s output. As children of Chicago’s groundbreaking Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM)—which also finds Jack DeJohnette, Anthony Braxton, and Wadada Leo Smith on its formidable roster—Ensemble members bring to every project a sound as eclectic as their technology. Theirs is simply positive music-making that is loads of fun and possesses much to admire. Free of dangerous philosophical trappings and illusions of space, it forges through the loose aesthetic of its performance a circle in which any and all listeners feel included.
The group’s noted fondness for “little instruments” adds color at every turn, as in the blown menagerie that is “Folkus,” the sole contribution from drummer Don Moye. Amid accents from parallel dimensions, winds and brass get locked in a cacophonous traffic jam—recalling the opening of Jean-Luc Godard’s Weekend—before falling into shadowy gestures and other cosmic accidents. Out of this, we awaken with Moye’s footsteps as a flock of shawms flies overhead into a tease. Such enigmatic caravans are emblematic of the AEC at their most visceral. Leader and reed-meister Roscoe Mitchell delights with the title track and with “Cyp,” both likeminded forays into breath and time. In the latter, we get perhaps the first (and last) bike horn “solo” in all of jazz, as well as some powerful wails from trumpeter Lester Bowie, who also lures us in with the album’s opener, “Ja.” Here, we start in freefall, finding solid ground beneath our sonic feet as the group slips into a Jamaican free-for-all. Joseph Jarman brings his saxophonic skills to the tripping rhythms of “597-59.” Bassist Malachi Favors, who provides not a few captivating moments here, is the bounding foil thereof. Yet it is “Dreaming Of The Master,” Jarman’s nearly 12-minute love letter to Miles Davis, that brings the album to its most unimaginable conclusions. With more specific execution, it shows the depth and breadth of the Ensemble at their best. Moye kicks things up a notch or two, paving the way for star turns from Mitchell, such that when the vampy horns return we hear them not as a memory but as an entirely new collective experience. And in the end, this is what the AEC is all about.

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