Window Steps is both the title of Pierre Favre's new recording and the name of this "band of band-leaders" bought together by the Swiss drummer. Though between them they have covered most of the options in contemporary improvisation, these players have in common an advanced melodic understanding. They are, above all, lyrical improvisers.
The same may be claimed for the drummer himself who, even in the turbulent era of European free jazz'z "emancipation" stood apart from his contemporaries in his sensitivity to the tone of his instrument. Pursuing his investigations of the melodic potential of the drum set into the early 70s, Favre, originally a self-taught player, felt he was approaching the demarcation line that separated "drummer" from "composer".
To learn more about the subject, he studied classical composition and immersed himself in the diverse percussion musics of the wider world, particularly those of India, Africa and Brazil, gradually consolidating all of this new information in the "sound-color poems" he was writing for his Singing Drums group. His sensitivity as a percussionist has been evident on many ECM recordings including projects with John Surman (Such Winters Of Memory), Barre Phillips (Music By), Dino Saluzzi (Once Upon A Time - Far Away In The South), Arvo Pärt (Sarah was Ninety Years Old), Paul Giger (Alpstein) as well as his duet recordings with singer Tamia (de la nuit...le jour and Solitudes).
The diversity of his experiences has clearly helped him as a writer. The tunes he has composed for this project have a reach that extends beyond "jazz" (the piece "Cold Nose", for example has a strong "Nordic folklore" feeling that seems to share a kinship with the writing of another drummer-leader, Edward Vesala). At the same time, as a percussionist, Favre is able to balance extreme sophistication with an earthiness, a simple delight in the sound of sticks striking skins, that connects him to some of early jazz's drumming greats - Baby Dodds, Big Sid Catlett, Sonny Greer.
His playing has a clarity and sense of flow that underlines Sid Catlett's definition of swing as "my idea of how a melody should go". Part of Favre's plan for Window Steps incorporates the "orchestration" of his drum-derived melodies with the scaled-down "horn section" and "string section" provided by his bandmates.