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Articles | Featured | Future

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Bobo Stenson: Contra la indecision

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With a few exceptions, Swedish pianist Bobo Stenson has spent his long recording career with the prestigious ECM label, dating back to his oddly named Underwear in 1971. That particular album turned out to be more a showcase for bassist Arild Andersen and drummer Jon Christensen than for Stenson, and the pianist did not lead again on the label for twenty years. Stenson was hardly absent from Manfred Eicher's iconic label in those intervening years, appearing as a sideman for ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Kit Downes: Obsidian

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In 2013, pianist/organist Kit Downes, along with saxophonist Tomas Challenger, released Wedding Music (Loop Records) featuring Downes on the B-3 organ at Huddersfield University's St Paul's Church. That recording was moored in an ethereal setting that gave it an ambient, but stately quality and the duo reunited under similar conditions for Vyamanikal (Slip Imprint, 2016). In both cases the music focused more on the transparency of resonance rather than the structure of the pieces. Downes' ECM debut, Obsidian, returns him ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Lusine Grigoryan: Komitas: Seven Songs

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Pioneering ethnomusicologist Komitas (Soghomon Soghomonian) is best known for transcribing and preserving Armenian popular music in the late 19th and early 20th century. He was, however, also a singer, choirmaster and an accomplished composer in the western classical tradition. The 2017 Seven Songs on ECM label's New Music Series features expressive pianist Lusine Grigoryan interpreting 28 short and captivating Komitas compositions.Grigoryan gets to the emotive and intellectual core of these pieces with vibrant elegance and exquisite subtlety. She ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Maciej Obara: Unloved

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Seemingly from thin air, the meditative music on Unloved, Polish alto saxophonist Maciej Obara's ECM debut, envelopes you in its improvisatory, chamber atmosphere and stays with you through the darker parts of the day. Spectral piano Dominik Wania, expressive double bass Ole Morten Vagan and airy percussion Gard Nilssden, composers and band leaders all, contribute mightily and selflessly to Obara's bare, lyrical sketches; filling them out and forming them into a whole consciousness, into motifs and tone poems ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Benedikt Jahnel Trio: The Invariant

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The Invariant is the third album from the Benedikt Jahnel Trio and its second album on ECM Records. The Invariant follows Modular Concepts, released in 2008 on Material Records, and Equilibrium, released in 2012 on ECM. The trio remains intact with German pianist Benedikt Jahnel, Spanish double bassist Antonio Miguel, and Canadian drummer Owen Howard. Two features of the The Invariant are striking and shape the entire album. The first is the quality of the musical conservation the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Maciej Obara: Unloved

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Unloved marks a before and after for alto saxophonist/composer Maciej Obara, whose star has gradually risen since his debut as leader, Message from Ohayo (Polish Radio Katowice, 2007), and his subsequent stint with Tomasz Stanko's New Balladyna Quartet. However, it's arguably with his quintet Obara International, featuring Dominik Wania, Gard Nilssen, Ole Morten Vågan and Tom Arthurs, that Obara has attracted most attention. Championed by Jazztopad festival's international showcase tours, Obara International's extensive travels have been documented in several excellent ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jon Balke - Siwan: Nahnou Houm

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When Norwegian keyboardist/composer Jon Balke began the Siwan project in 2007 it grew out of a fascination with Andalusian culture, and an imaginary musical history. What would have happened in European and world musical development if the Inquisition had never happened? Siwan (ECM, 2009) brought together Gharnati music (represented by vocalist Amina Alaoui and violinist Kheir Eddine M Kachiche), Baroque and improvised contemporary music. This album seeks to establish the concept as a working unit. Only Balke, Helge ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Bjorn Meyer: Provenance

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Bassist Björn Meyer strongly believes that there are multiple functions for bass. Born just outside of Stockholm, he started out playing piano and some guitar but when he randomly picked up a bass, he realized that he had found his instrument. Self-taught, he had been inspired by the diverse styles of Marcus Miller and Jaco Pastorius. Meyer came to prominence playing a style called Trip Folk with the Swedish group Bazar Blå and with the jazz-oriented European trio featuring reed ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Anouar Brahem: Blue Maqams

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Oud-master Anouar Brahem's instantly intoxicating, Blue Maqams, caps off a truly remarkable year for ECM Records. Just think, the label's release schedule this year included essential recordings by Benedikt Jahnel Trio's The Invariant, Django Bates' breakthrough The Study of Touch, Colin Vallon Trio's Danse, Vijay Iyer Sextet's Far From Over, and Gary Peacock's Tangents, all of them at once mysterious, challenging, and ultimately rewarding upon each listen. A magam defines traditional Arab musical phrases, tones, notes and melodies ...