The ECM New Series debut of Israeli composer Gideon Lewensohn, 'Odradek' is comprised entirely of premiere recordings. Lewensohn is increasingly recognised as one of the freshest voices in contemporary music and the title piece from this album, the 'Odradek Quartet' won First Prize in the International Competition of the Italian Academy of Arts and Letters. Lewensohn's music defies easy categorisation. It is by turns, playful, serious, ironic, caustic, beautiful. The composer defines his own role as that of a commentator on culture - sometimes from a specifically Jewish perspective - and the range of musical-historical references in the work is vast. In his compositions, Lewnsohn pays tribute to Kurtág, Kancheli, Lutoslawski, Shostakovich, Bartók, Mahler, Rochberg, the Hilliard Ensemble, ragtime composer Scott Joplin and many others.
Thanks in no small part to ECM founder Manfred Eicher's patience and indulgence, here we have another of Keith Jarrett's myriad of "special projects" – two CDs of music recorded on a clavichord. This carries Jarrett's anti-electric crusade to a real extreme, the clavichord being a keyboard from J.S. Bach's day, obsolete for over 200 years. The instrument produces a gentle pinging sound like a harpsichord crossed with a zither (the amplified Hohner Clavinet is the closest sound in our time), and Jarrett occasionally tries to stretch the instrument's limited possibilities, hammering percussively on the close-miked strings. Yet for the most part, Jarrett reins in his world-class technique in order to make unpretentiously minimal music on this ancient keyboard. Some of it sounds like folk music, some like new age contemplation, there are convincing neo-baroque musings, and a few of these untitled though numbered selections kick into a higher gear. Sometimes this music is charming; a lot of the time, it gets wearisome. But hey, they also laughed when Keith started putting out massive sets of solo piano…
Sofia Gubaidulina is one of the originals of our era. A new release comes to us from ECM this week, confirming and extending that idea. Canticle of the Sun (ECM New Series) presents the title work as performed by the Riga Chamber Choir, Maris Sirmais conducting, with Nicolas Altstaedt as cello soloist plus two percussion and celesta. The disk also features the world premiere recording of "The Lyre of Orpheus" with Gidon Kremer as violin soloist, Marta Sudraba, cello soloist and the Kremerata Baltica.
After important contributions to Heinz Holliger’s “Romancendres” and acclaimed performance, with Carolin Widmann, of Schumann’s Violin Sonatas, here is the first New Series solo recording from Hungarian pianist Dénes Várjon. It is a recital that draws the listener in from the first moments – beginning with the dark, brooding language of Alban’s Berg’s Piano Sonata Op. 1, shaped in the shadow of Schoenberg, and continuing into the nebulous regions of Janáček’s impressionistic and near-contemporaneous “In the mists”, finally emerging into the clear light of Liszt’s immense - and immensely-influential - B-minor Sonata.
Pianist Vijay Iyer's fifth album for ECM, 2017's fiery sextet date Far from Over, follows his superb 2016 collaboration with trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, A Cosmic Rhythm with Each Stroke. Where that album found Iyer and Smith engaged in a deeply interconnected series of often abstract chamber improvisations, here we find him exploding outward, but with no less interconnectedness between him and his bandmates.
The six-CD box set Keith Jarrett at the Blue Note fully documents three nights (six complete sets from June 3-5, 1994) by his trio with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette. Never mind that this same group has already had ten separate releases since 1983; this box is still well worth getting. The repertoire emphasizes (but is not exclusively) standards, with such songs as "In Your Own Sweet Way," "Now's the Time," "Oleo," "Days of Wine and Roses," and "My Romance" given colorful and at times surprising explorations.
Encore is a companion volume to Résumé the widely-praised solo album issued in 2011. Eberhard Weber returns once more to the many live recordings of his tenure with the Jan Garbarek Group, isolating his bass solos and reworking them into new pieces with the addition of his own keyboard parts. “I became what you might call a composer of New Music,” says Weber, “with the proviso that I make use of old things.”This season’s special guest is veteran Dutch flugelhorn player Ack van Rooyen.
Gefion, named for the Norse goddess associated with ploughing, prophecy and premonition, is the ECM leader debut of Danish guitarist Jakob Bro. Bro first recorded for ECM with Paul Motian on Garden of Eden in 2004, followed by Tomasz Stanko’s Dark Eyes album of 2009. The guitarist’s feeling for melody, sound-colour and atmosphere served him well in those contexts, as it does here in the realization of his own free floating ballads and drifting, spacious-yet-focused pieces.
If there is an actual sonic intersection between the natural world and music, then Navidad de los Andes, the collaborative recording between master bandoneonist and composer Dino Saluzzi, his younger brother, saxophonist Felix Saluzzi, and German cellist Anja Lechner has perhaps found it. The brothers have been playing music together for over 60 years; Lechner has been working with the elder Saluzzi since Kultrum in the mid-'90s. Felix and Lechner were both featured soloists on Saluzzi's 2009 orchestral recording El Encuentro.
Songs for Quintet, Kenny Wheeler’s final recording, features compositions of relatively recent vintage, plus a fresh approach to “Old Time” – which the Azimuth trio used to play – and “Nonetheless”, a piece introduced on Angel Song. The album was recorded at London’s Abbey Road Studios with four of Kenny’s favourite players. Stan Sulzmann, John Parricelli, Chris Laurence and Martin France work together marvellously as an interactive unit, solo persuasively, and provide support for the tender and lyrical flugelhorn of the bandleader.