In a 2006 interview for All About Jazz written by Joao Moriera dos Santos, pianist/keyboardist Benjamin Lackner was asked: "What label would you like to be on in the near future?" He said, simply, "ECM." That seemed ambitious for Lackner at that stage of his career. He was 29 years old at the time and boasted only two albums under his own nameone of them was Sign Of The Times
(Nagel Heyer, 2006), released a bit before the interviewalong with a couple of sideman credits on recordings by the group Maroon, featuring vocalist Hillary Maroon. But he offered up plenty of proof of his ability to fit into the prestigious ECM label's wide-open stable in the years after the interview went down, releasing four more excellent albums, including Cachuma
(BHM Productions, 2012), Siskiyou
(Unit Records, 2015), and Drake
(Ozella Music, 2019).
The time span between 2006 to 2022 is a long one, but Benjamin Lackner must have believed in himself and his dream; in 2022 that ECM Records dream comes true, with Last Decade
, an album that may surprise those familiar with Lackner's previous recordings.
Lackner goes into a gear shift here. His previous recordings have all featured a piano trio, with liberal use of electronics, somewhat in the mode of early Brad Mehldau
, on those occasions Mehldau decided to enhance his piano trio approach (note that Lackner studied with Mehldau for a couple of years in the late '90s). But Last Decade
is an acoustic album, and it includes (a first for Lackner) a horn, making the ensemble a quartet. Mathias Eick
is the horn man, an artist who boasts a rich history with ECM Records. Add drummer Manu Katche to the mixanother prolific ECM guy. The bassist: Jérôme Regard
, joined Lackner's trio in 2006. This puts Lackner in the studio with an aspect of collaborative familiarity combined with the freshness and vibrancy of a pair of masterful ECM veterans Katche and Eick. It is an inspired mixture, almost certainly stirred up by Manfred Eicher
, ECM Records' main man.
The music is strikingly melodic, as opposed to Lackner's previous piano trio outings, that take more the form of modernistic, atmospheric, electronic soundscapings. Eick's gorgeous horn work adds to that bolstering of the melodic, and Lackner is right there with him, laying down subtle, delicate, succinct solos before and after Eick's statements. As for the guy in the drummer's seat: Manu Katche fits into the unorthodox category in this task, alongside Paul Motian
and Jon Christensen
, as a drummer who lifts the music by supplying perfection in his unconventional, unexpected enhancements.
The music of Last Decade
can be compared to trumpeter Tomasz Stańko
's work with the Marcin Wasilewski
Trio, especially his The Soul Of Things
(ECM Records, 2002). In the way of many ECM Records releases, the music of Last Decade
is spacious and deliberative, brimming with patiently articulated ruminations played out without flash or pretense as they explore the depths of time-stopping, enchanting loveliness.
Where Do We Go From Here; Circular Confidence; Camino Cielo; Hung Up On That Ghost; Last
Decade; Remember This; Open Minds Lost; Emile; My People.
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