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ECM @ Winter Jazzfest 2016

Tyran Grillo By

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ECM @ Winter Jazzfest
ECM Records Stage
The New School, Tishman Auditorium
New Yor, NY
January 15 & 16, 2016

New York City's 2016 Winter Jazzfest Marathon capped off a string of first-week performances. The running theme of the festival was transition, as musicians of all walks emphasized the collaborative spirit of their chosen profession and the metamorphic possibilities without which jazz would wither. At the heart of this year's Marathon was the ECM Records Stage at The New School's Tishman Auditorium, the architectural rhythms of which were as interlocking as those of the performers it housed.

Bound by stylistic curiosity and disregard for genre borders, the ECM family has always been a global one. For the past 40 years and then some, visionary producer Manfred Eicher has ensured that ECM remains eclectic at heart. The crosspollinations of its rosters have been as indicative of the musicians' pioneering impulses as of Mr. Eicher's genius in putting them together in the same studio. And with a rigorous release schedule that now averages out to one album per week, ECM has not merely yielded a catalog of exceptional integrity, but has become the stronghold for a new generation of improvisers and composers. The Winter Jazzfest showcase was therefore less about where the label has been than where it is going.

David Torn



Nearly all of the artists featured were recent additions to the label's ranks. A towering exception in this regard was guitarist David Torn, whose alchemy fittingly inaugurated the event. Surrounded by an array of effects pedals and miscellaneous equipment, Torn built ambient worlds by means of multi-tracking in real time. Since first appearing on ECM in 1982 in the context of his Everyman Band, Torn has become known for his walls of sound, but what he played at The New School was like his unmistakable quaff: an apparent shock of white that on closer inspection revealed a field of gradations. As on his 2015 solo album Only Sky, Torn filled the space with an intuitive feel for structure, atmosphere, and, occasionally, melody. Throughout his capture and release of wave patterns, he consumed certain motifs while releasing others back into the wild, as it were, if only to see what they might become when they returned in digitally resurrected form. As the set progressed, it became difficult to draw the line between composition (the tunes did have names) and improvisation. Prerecorded loops appeared as signals, woven into a spontaneous tapestry and coming to a head in the desolate, Bill Frisell-like epilogue.

Ethan Iverson/Mark Turner Duo



It was appropriate that the ECM showcase should begin and end with its most intimate portions. Closing out the festivities were pianist Ethan Iverson and saxophonist Mark Turner, whose duo stylings made for a whimsical experience. Iverson, with his curatorial flair, and Turner, ever the meticulous professional, complemented each other to a T. From the science fiction-inspired "We Come from the Future" to the enigmatically titled "Turner's Chamber of Unlikely Delights," Iverson's compositions were a delicious mix of the literary and the cinematic, while the Turner-penned "Myron's World" (the only tune not being premiered that night) was spoken with the directness of a child. Even more impressive than the duo's technical flourishes were its emotional virtuosities, as when, during his "Time and Tide," Iverson lifted his hands from the keys like a bird in flight, leaving Turner to venture alone. Another highlight was the etudinal "On the Beat." Marked by synchronized finger snaps at either end of the piece, it boasted delightful soloing on both sides of the equals sign before finishing with "Unclaimed Freight," an original blues in G.

David Virelles's Mbókò

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