Once Upon A Time-Live in Avignon
is the fourth release of ECM-sourced material from the celebrated German bassist Eberhard Weber
whose 2007 stroke left him unable to play. Résumé
(2012) consisted of bass solos extracted and re-engineered from Weber's work with Jan Garbarek
(2015) followed a similar formula with seventeen years of bass solos mixed and edited. Weber also contributed keyboards, and Dutch trumpeter Ack Van Rooyen
added flugelhorn. Hommage à Eberhard Weber
released later in 2015 was recorded during a live all-star tribute, with archival audio recordings of the bassist mixed in. Once Upon A Time-Live in Avignon
is artistically the cleanest of these recordings, an empirical study of Weber alone.
Weber was never obsessive about his music career and recorded very lightly as a leader after 1990, remaining active through several Garbarek releases. He entered a period of successful solo concerts following the ECM release Pendulum
in 1993. With overdubbing and an echo unit, the solo bass album was the last album Weber would record as a leader for more than ten years.
The material on Once Upon A Time-Live in Avignon
was captured at Théatre des Halles in the south of France, in 1994, as part of Barre Phillips
' Festival International De Contrebasse. The pieces are mostly interpretations from the sextet project Orchestra
(ECM, 1988) and Pendulum
. The opening number is the title track from that solo album, here more lucid and with a quicker tempo. The stunning twelve-minute "Trio for Bassoon and Bass" is a remarkable display of Weber's improvisational skill. Weber briefly picks up the bow for part of his unique, quirky take on "My Favorite Things." The album closes with "Air," Weber keeping close to the original script on this one.
Solo bass recordings are an acquired taste and struggle to be compelling even at their most imaginative. Weber's exceptional Pendulum
, while largely praised, drew mixed reactions overall, with some finding the bassist's reticent nature and his repetitive self-accompaniment weighing the music down. Once Upon A Time-Live in Avignon
should generate no such debate. Weber's compositions, exceptional playing, and unique voice make this an extraordinary album.
Pendulum; Trio For Bassoon And Bass; Ready Out There; Silent For A While; Delirium; My Favorite Things; Air.