La produzione di ECM è sconfinata ed estrarne una raccolta antologica sarebbe stato davvero improbo. Musica Jazz ha voluto così sottolineare un aspetto non sempre chiaro ai più, ovvero la qualità artistica e strumentale dei musicisti italiani, caratteristiche che hanno meritato l’attenzione di Manfred Eicher e del suo staff. E anche in questo caso la selezione non è stato semplice, costringendo a trascurare – obtorto collo ma per prosaiche ragioni di spazio – alcune eccellenti produzioni del passato.
After critically-lauded projects with trumpeter Paolo Fresu (Chiaroscuro) and with fellow guitarists Wolfgang Muthspiel and Slava Grigoryan (Travel Guide), Ralph Towner returns to solo guitar for My Foolish Heart. Whether on classical guitar or 12-string guitar Towner’s touch is immediately identifiable. Solo music is an important thread through his rich discography and this new album – recorded at Lugano’s Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI in February 2016 and produced by Manfred Eicher – follows in the great tradition of Diary, Solo Concert, Ana, Anthem, and Time Line. It features finely-honed new compositions as well as a pair of tunes (“Shard” and “Rewind”) from the songbook of Oregon, a dedication to the late Paul Bley (“Blue As In Bley”) and a single standard – Victor Young’s “My Foolish Heart” which Towner first came to love in Bill Evans’s interpretation.
William Byrd (1543-1623) has been called the greatest English composer, an arbiter of the sublime and master of his craft. And while discerning early music listeners have a fair number of recordings to choose from in order to put any stake into this claim, this offering from ECM is as sensitive an introduction as any into all things Byrd.
Splitting his time between the electric and acoustic pianos and a bit of organ, Jarrett teams up with drummer/percussionist Jack DeJohnette in a series of experimental duets, his only electric session for ECM. The all-acoustic title number ranges all over the lot, from tootling on a bamboo (?) flute to the energizing barrelhouse gospel riffs that would bloom in the solo concerts.
Keith Jarrett's numerous volumes of improvised solo piano recordings are all treasure troves of spontaneous music making. Documented since the 1970s, they reveal the opening of his music as it readily embraces classical and sacred music influences, filters out what is unnecessary in his technique, and encounters the depth and breadth of the jazz tradition and his own unique abilities as a composer. The four discs in A Multitude of Angels were recorded in as many Italian cities during the last week of October 1996 – some 20 months after the concert captured on La Scala.
Elegy is the ECM leader debut by vocalist and composer Theo Bleckmann. A prolific recording artist, his association with the label dates back to Meredith Monk's 2002 date Mercy and its follow-up, Impermanence, in 2008 (Bleckmann was a member of her ensemble for 15 years). His voice was also a focal point of Julia Hulsmann's quartet on 2015's Clear Midnight: Kurt Weill & America. For a singer who draws attention to himself almost as much for what he doesn't do as what he does, Elegy is a quiet yet startling offering.
From the very first cut here, "The Lover of Beirut", Brahem's fascinating blend of traditional Eastern-flavored tonalities and his very jazz-like sense of free rhythms mix, in an astonishingly instinctual and intimate way, with Gesing's moody clarinet, their melodic lines at times doubling before breaking free to bend and swerve off into a melodic maze before slowly returning to their intricate Byzantine dance.
On its third ECM album Vallon again leads the group not with virtuosic solo display but by patient outlining of melody and establishing of frameworks in which layered group improvising can take place. With this group, gentle but insistent rhythms can trigger seismic musical events. Although Vallon (recently nominated for the Swiss Music Prize) is the author of nine of the pieces here, the band members share equal responsibilities for the music's unfolding. The gravitational pull of Patrice Moret's bass and the intense detail supplied by Julian Sartorius's drums and cymbals are crucial to the success of Vallon's artistic concept and the range of emotions the music can convey.