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Eberhard Weber: Eberhard Weber: Resume

John Kelman By

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You've got to admire German-born, France-resident bassist Eberhard Weber. Suffering a major stroke while on tour with Jan Garbarek in 2007—an association that went back more than 30 years, the two first collaborating on American guitarist/pianist Ralph Towner's Solstice (ECM, 1975) and Weber becoming the Norwegian saxophonist's bassist of choice beginning with Photo With Blue Sky, White Cloud, Wires, Windows And A Red Roof (ECM, 1978)—to this day Weber's left side remains too weak for him to play his unique, custom-designed 5-string electric double bass. Still, as early as 2010, as he turned 70, Weber revealed that, while on tour with Garbarek, "We always had a sound engineer ... who recorded every concert. I asked him to pull out my unaccompanied soli—Jan likes to have his musicians play on their own in the transitions between the individual pieces ... I would really like to release a selection of [them] one day."

Well, dreams can indeed come true, but while Weber pondered the idea of perhaps playing "a couple of deep tones or drones with it," Résumé turns out to be far more than just a choice selection of bass solos, recorded on tour with Garbarek over a quarter century and 1,000 shows in Germany, Austria, Italy, France, England, The Netherlands and Chile—though, as Weber demonstrated on earlier solo bass recordings like Pendulum (ECM, 1995) and Orchestra (ECM, 1988), that would have been plenty good enough. Instead, Weber has taken a dozen bass solos—improvisations which, enhanced by delay processing and looping, are already more expansive than what a single, unadorned instrument can manage—and written in, out and around them, adding keyboards and, on a handful of tracks, either Garbarek or drummer Michael DiPasqua to further broaden these eminently accessible yet multilayered and compositionally rich sound worlds.

As recently as 2002 and Weber's Endless Days, the bassist was already speaking of a stronger predilection for composition and classical music, and if that album was largely through-composed, Résumé actually harkens back to a time when many a great classical composer was, in fact, an improviser who ultimately documented his extemporizations as the foundation for more formal structure. And, so, while pieces like "Heidenheim"—the album's longest track at nearly six minutes—were originally freely improvised bass solos acting as connecting threads between two compositions, here Weber turns them into full-fledged compositions, and it proves something that anyone who has experienced Weber live already knows: that his solos were always compositionally focused, rendering them almost ready-made for the enhancements he's applied in the studio, after the fact, for Résumé.

A curious comment in Weber's self-written liners to Résumé suggests that the inherent density of his work made adding his friends' contributions something of a challenge. Still, Garbarek's performances—whether on tenor sax towards the end of "Amsterdam," soprano in a similar place on " Tübingen," or the overtones of his selje flute on "Bath"—continue to support his reputation as someone more interested in the perfect tone, the perfect note than irrelevant virtuosic displays. It's an approach that dovetails perfectly with Weber who, like Garbarek, is clearly capable of grander virtuosity, but who is clearly more driven to create music that will remain both meaningful and relevant well into the future, often propelled by his thundering bass loops and brimming with melodies that are instantly recognizable as coming from either his spontaneous mind or more carefully considered pen.

While Weber's current condition precludes him from playing bass, the good news is that he still has plenty of material to choose from to continue this compositional approach; in fact, he already has enough material for another record. So, rather than viewing his recent physical impairment as any kind of ending, Résumé should be seen to represent a new beginning for a bassist whose discography as a leader may be diminutive—with this record, just 13 in nearly 40 years—but whose consequently small repertoire is all the more memorable for it, having been cited as tremendously influential with artists ranging from guitarist Pat Metheny to pop singer Kate Bush. Weber may no longer play bass, but his compositional acumen is as astute and intuitive as ever, making Résumé an album that easily stands alongside the rest of his consistently fine discography, occupying an alternative musical universe that continues to sound—and resonate—like no other.

Track Listing: Liezen; Karlsruhe; Heidenheim; Santiago; Wolfsburg; Amsterdam; Marburg; Tübingen; Bochum; Bath; Lazise; Grenoble

Personnel: Eberhard Weber: bass, keyboards; Jan Garbarek: soprano saxophone (8), tenor saxophone (6, 10), selje flute (10); Michael DiPasqua: drums and percussion (9, 11).

Title: Eberhard Weber: Resume | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: ECM Records

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