First ECM solo album from the Norwegian violinist who has gained many friends for his work with the Christian Wallumrød Ensemble. Økland’s solo music is strongly inspired by the rich Norwegian fiddle tradition and its freedom, variation and individuality, yet what he plays is not purely ‘folk music’ rather a reinvention of folk forms, with free improvisation and contemporary composition also powerful influences. The ‘personality’ of the instruments themselves is also an inspiration: on “Monograph” Økland makes the most of the ‘drone’ qualities of the viola d’amore and the Hardanger fiddle (he plays both old and modern models) as well as an old violin from 1700, in a recital of subtle and melodic invention.
Wolfgang Muthspiel – whom The New Yorker has called “a shining light” among today’s jazz guitarists – made his ECM leader debut in 2014 with the trio disc Driftwood, featuring him alongside two longtime colleagues, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Brian Blade. For his follow-up – Rising Grace – the Austrian guitarist has convened a very special quintet, adding jazz luminary Brad Mehldau on piano and the outstanding young trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire to the subtly virtuosic Grenadier/Blade rhythm section.
Norwegian Hardanger fiddle specialist Nils Okland has a broad range of musical interests, as illustrated by his eclectic discography. His solo album Monograph (ECM, 2011) spotlighted his lyrical, folkloric side; Lysøen—Hommage à Ole Bull (ECM, 2011) with keyboardist Sigbjorn Apeland payed tribute to the Norwegian classical tradition; Lumen Drones (ECM, 2014) found him making trance music with two rock musicians; and the recent Felt Like Old Folk (Smeraldina-Rima, 2016) collaboration with the Belgian duo Linus was almost completely improvised. He was also a member of Thomas Stronen's "Time is a Blind Guide" band, although he does not appear on the recording.
The New York Times has praised violinist Miranda Cuckson’s “undeniable musicality,” while Gramophone has declared her “an artist to be reckoned with.” Born in Australia and educated in America, she makes her ECM New Series debut – alongside pianist Blair McMillen – with three 20th-century milestones: the Hungarian Béla Bartók’s Violin Sonata No. 2 (1922), the Russian Alfred Schnittke’s Violin Sonata No. 2 “Quasi una Sonata” (1968) and the Pole Witold Lutoslawski’s Partita for Violin and Piano (1984).
Pianist Giovanni Guidi and trombonist Gianluca Petrella, key figures in what some are hailing as a “golden age” of Italian jazz, found their strong improvisational rapport inside Enrico Rava’s band (see for instance the 2010 ECM album Tribe) and, keen to play more, formed a duo, giving many concerts in which they are intermittently joined by guests. For this studio recording, producer Manfred Eicher brought the duo together with US drummer Gerald Cleaver and French clarinetist Louis Sclavis, for an outgoing set of music which includes lyrical free improvising and tunes composed by Giovanni and Gianluca.
The newest addition to ECM’s popular Old and New Masters Series is a box set reprising the four albums made by Peter Erskine’s American-British-Swedish trio with John Taylor and Palle Danielsson between 1992 and 1997: You Never Know, As It Is, Time Being and Juni. If its core concept – a piano led by a drummer – was unorthodox, the group was nonetheless influential, and the recordings provide an excellent environment for appreciating the distinctive writing and playing of John Taylor.
Ralph Towner’s Solo Concert holds a special place in my ECM-adoring heart, for it was my introduction to a guitarist whose skills have since become staples of my listening life. Lovingly recorded in the open concert spaces of Munich and Zurich, Solo Concert is to the guitar what Keith Jarrett’s The Köln Concert is to the piano. It’s that good.
Ketil Bjørnstad’s passion for the English metaphysical poet John Donne (1572-1631) is a lifelong affair. His settings of Donne’s verse have led to recordings including The Shadow, Grace and the ECM album The Light. “After working with the texts of John Donne for more than twenty years, I still find new approaches to understanding what he wrote and I find music throughout. It is in the language, in the rhythm, in the silence between the sentences - a passionate quest for meaning and reconciliation. Donne's dramatic life is reflected in the texts and everywhere in them you will find the passion, melodies and sounds”.
ECM celebrates the occasion of pianist Keith Jarrett's 70th birthday with two simultaneous releases. One is a classical date for its New Series on which he performs piano concertos by Béla Bartók and Samuel Barber with two different orchestras. The other is Creation, a solo piano offering. While Jarrett has made dozens of solo records, this is unlike any in his catalog. Rather than document the unfolding of his in-the-moment ideas through a single performance, this set features nine sections compiled from half-a-dozen performances in four cities and five venues (all notated in the sleeve) during 2014.