Eberhard Weber: Positive Pragmatism

John Kelman By

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Eberhard Weber—OrchestraWhile Weber has done solo bass recordings before—in addition to Pendulum, which relied on looping and other technologies to create an album more orchestral in scope, and Orchestra (ECM, 1988), on which Weber scored for a brass ensemble on some tracks— Résumé represents an entirely different approach. Here, Weber took solos culled from a quarter century of performances with Garbarek and—with the addition of keyboards, judicious editing and, on a handful of tracks, guest contributions from the saxophonist and longtime Weber drummer, Michael DiPasqua—composed around these bass solos to turn them into something that he could never have envisioned at the time he first performed them as improvised interludes linking two songs in a Jan Garbarek Group set list.

"I had no real concept of how to use these interludes," Weber explains, "because, as you can imagine, one tune might end in A-flat minor, so I had to start in that key and develop something into the next tune, which might, for example, be in D major. So then I listened to all these recordings, one after the other—which was torture, of course; you start to hate yourself [laughs]. And then I realized I couldn't just put them one after the other. When you play on a tour and you do 20, 30 or 40 gigs, there is ultimately not so much variation because you're coming out of the same piece and going into the next one. It's never the same note for note because it's improvised, but the mood is kind of the same. You realize, during a tour, for example, that you very much like what you played the previous night and think about what else you can do with it the following night.

"So," Weber continues, "some of these solos were, in a certain way, very similar, and I realized I couldn't do what I wanted to do, which was to hang one after the other. And then I had another idea of bringing somebody else in who could play interludes between my solos. At this point, I wouldn't say I was desperate, but I lost interest in the work because I couldn't find any solution.

"Then, one year later Manfred Eicher told me, 'Why don't you start again?'" Weber continues. "And finally, after a year, I had this thought—this idea—and I started, and then while working with it, I developed some ideas of what to do. I also learned how [using music editing software] to copy solos, because there was so much editing to do here and there. I analyzed all these solos: one was a fast piece; one was a slow piece; one was more about sound. I selected them in colors, more or less. The solo from Hamburg, for example, started very fast, and then there was a slow part that goes fast again. I decided to eliminate the fast part because I didn't like it, but the slow part was very nice. So I cut out the slow part and tried to discover what else I could do with it."

"And, of course, I had a computer at home, and you don't need a mixing board anymore," Weber continues. "You can do it all at home. It's great. So I started to build things up, and I added my keyboards—a little piano, a little bass, a little violin, a little oboe, whatever. I started to become very satisfied and, in fact, became really excited and couldn't stop working on it. I have a lot more tunes ready, so if there's a question of doing a second album, it's already finished. The compositions are done; they just need final mixing."

The tracks on Résumé are simply named after the towns where the solos were first performed. "If I remember correctly, the earliest is from the late '80s, 1989 or something from around that time," says Weber, "and the last is from 2007. It's kind of interesting because it's the last track on Résumé, and it's the last recording that exists for me because the solo was recorded about two weeks before my stroke, and there are no other recordings. So this track, 'Grenoble,' is the last recording that exists anywhere of me playing bass."

With actual performance now a thing of the past, it's great news, then, that not only has Weber managed to find a way to continue writing and release an album that is still centered around his distinctive bass playing but he also already has the sequel to Résumé largely in the can—though he's yet to add any guest performers because, as he explains, doing so for Résumé was not an easy process.

Eberhard"There was another big problem with the current album," Weber says. "I had the idea, right away, of someone playing on the record. But then I realized—I was almost shocked—that there was no space. Because, when you play a solo [live] you don't want to be boring; you want to entertain the people. So you play and you play, and there's never any space. So in some pieces, I had to find there some bars, perhaps, that I could double up or triple up—maybe one or two bars—I could extend them and copy, copy, copy. I could copy several bars to make a piece which he [Jan Garbarek] could play to, and it worked out. Nobody realizes that it's a loop underneath the solos."

Garbarek's contributions may be relatively brief, entering, for example, halfway through "Amsterdam" to deliver a solo built around a looped segment, meshing almost seamlessly with Weber's arco bass on the gentler "Tübingen," and contributing a delicate selje flute to the closing minutes of "Bath." But not unlike his relatively brief contributions to Elixir (ECM, 2008) by Marilyn Mazur, the Danish percussionist on another Garbarek Group alum, the saxophonist's contributions to Résumé lend the record added shape and color.

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