Wolfert Brederode: Currents (2008)
With the intensely emotive Currents, pianist Wolfert Brederode makes his ECM debut, having appeared on vocalist Susanne Abbuehl's April (ECM, 2001) and Compass (ECM, 2006) and been deeply involved in their sound.
Now leading instead of accompanying, Brederode has written (with one exception, "As You July Me," sharing credits with Abbuehl) a set of meditative and introspective pieces that make a cumulative, deep impression. The space this music occupies sits somewhere between extreme Romantic, yet modern classical composition that is mixed with a bit of minimalist repetitive structure, and light, gently pulsing improvisatory jazz.
Brederode's seductive magic involves the juxtaposition of floating harmony that moves in circles by small, highly controlled steps, and solo lines, not only from himself, but also by clarinetist Claudio Puntin, which are remarkable in their unpredictability. Added to this are repetitive figures that change only slightly each time, half-resolving the harmony and thus blurring its basic mode.
The music sounds in minor most of the time, producing the introspective and contemplative mood, without ever dropping into melancholy due to the chords being shaded with extra tones, and much sustain pedal used. Sealing this impression are the times, which are shocking when an arrival or resolution ends on the major third (making the mists open into golden sunshine), as happens in "Scarabee," which also has the strongest rhythmic component.
Although clarinetist Christof May collaborated marvelously with Brederode on the Abbuehl releases, the choice of Puntin is very fortuitous. He sounds completely comfortable with Brederode's methodology and blends perfectly with the pianist, playing with extreme clarity and having extraordinary control in the lower range.
Providing delicate and well-placed harmonic support is Norwegian bassist Mats Eilertsen, who, besides producing a number of fine releases as a leader (see Flux (AIM, 2006) and Short Stories (AIM, 2007)) is getting more exposure on ECM, playing with guitarist Jacob Young and drummer Thomas Stronen.
Finally, supplying dramatic, sensitive and subtly propulsive drumming is Samuel Rohrer, who also played on Abbuehl's April. His contributions give this mostly meditative music just the right amount of sharpness of edge, and by adding percussive drama, keeps it from becoming too stolid.
The pacing of Currents is wonderful, starting with the gently flowing "Common Fields," reaching a rhythmic peak in the aforementioned "Scarabee," leading to an even higher and more intense emotional apogee in "Ebb." This last tune being a showpiece for Puntin as he sings into the billowing winds of Brederode's accompaniment.
What is marvelous about this music is that it combines a moody airiness with intellectual rigor. The romantic emotionality that paints beautiful images of sound has sinews of steel. Currents simultaneously invites the listener with its surface beauty, only to create bonds that hold on strongly as it weaves its spell.
Track Listing: Common Fields; Empty Room; As You July Me; High & Low; With Them; Frost Flower; Scarabee; Desiderata; Soil; Ebb; Barcelona.
Personnel: Wolfert Brederode: piano; Claudio Puntin: clarinets; Mats Eilertsen: double-bass; Samuel Rohrer: drums.