The cast of European Echoes is incredibly formidable, representating a veritable dream orchestra populated by youthful incarnations of many of free improvisation's leading lights. But sadly the stilted sonics sometimes stand in the way of undiluted enjoyment of what’s transpiring. Bailey’s amplified and excoriating strings are at times the only individual voice discernable. Bennink and Favre blend together into a tumultuous tidal wave of percussion and the horns frequently crash against the undulating reef of pianos and basses in a single topographically textured mass. On the piece’s first part, Rutherford’s unctuous trombone is the first voice to rise successfully as a soloist out of the roiling mire. According to the notes, Bailey and Parker precede him, but both sound shackled to the ensemble to these ears and neither achieves escape velocity. Next up into the firing tube: what sounds like Brötzmann howling like his life depended on it against a clattering wall of drum-driven noise. Rava’s brittle brass follows, ascending and plummeting along the amplitudes of the ensemble torrent. Other band members raise their voices in encouragement, further raising the decibel level into the red on the recording microphones. The side winds up with a furious pitch from all three pianists in succession, pounding and pulverizing their respective rows of ivories to dust.
Part two continues the trend of single instrument-multiple musician assaults. First, there’s Bennink and Favre in a duel of percussive violence that once again tests the microphones’ mettle. The trio of bassists has at it next, wielding bows with scything accuracy and whipping up a storm of ferocious harmonics. Dudek, Steinmetz and Schoof pick up the pieces in quick succession, taking the album out to a rioutous close. Playing time is at a premium on this disc, much like the norm of ESP platters birthed on the other side of the Atlantic. Some listeners are likely to feel slighted by the album’s brevity, but it bears considering that this single piece is meant to stand-alone. Outtakes and alternates would have been welcome, but the performance works on its own terms just as well without them.
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