Support All About Jazz

All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. Pay $20 and we'll hide those six pesky Google ads that appear on every page, plus this box and the slideout box on the right for a full year! You'll also fund website expansion.


I want to help
1

Michael Formanek: Small Places

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
Michael Formanek: Small Places Small Places is bassist Michael Formanek's follow-up to 2009's The Rub and Spare Change, his critically acclaimed ECM debut as a leader. While Formanek's sophomore effort for the label features the same high profile sidemen, it differs in that the lineup rehearsed the material live before heading into the studio with producer Manfred Eicher, where every nuance of the working group's finely-honed rapport was captured in crystalline clarity.

Seamlessly blending the composed and improvised, alto saxophonist Tim Berne, pianist Craig Taborn and drummer Gerald Cleaver interpret Formanek's regal themes with focused intensity, effortlessly segueing from ethereal impressionism to earthy expressionism. The quartet's cross-generational make-up imbues the proceedings with a broad range of experience, finding common ground in the leader's lyrically evocative writing.

Their days as young upstarts in the 1980s Downtown NYC scene long behind them, Berne and Formanek have attained the status of revered statesmen. They bring a mature sensitivity to their performances—especially Berne, whose tortuous cadences instill Formanek's arcing melodies with a quixotic sense of harmonious narrative. Cleaver's attentive contributions perfectly underscore his bandmates multihued efforts, while Taborn serves as one of the session's most salient contributors; his prismatic technique imparts a neo-classical edge to the date that elevates it beyond the pale.

Enriching the ensemble's unified approach, each musician brings his own distinctive sensibilities to bear, expanding the dynamic possibilities of the acoustic quartet format. Leading by example with great authority, Formanek disregards the convention of unaccompanied bass solos, preferring the understated support of his stalwart sidemen in a variety of robust excursions. Equally compelling, Berne's sublime variations throughout the somber ballad "Wobble And Spill" are among the most beautiful in his discography, while Taborn's radiant extrapolations on "Seeds And Birdman" beguile with kaleidoscopic detail.

The entire group shines on the visceral epic "Parting Ways," a variegated hue and cry counterbalanced by the atmospheric tone poem "Soft Reality," which illuminates a far more restrained facet of the unit's interpretive capabilities. Whether careening through the tremulous changes of "Rising Tensions And Awesome Light" or accentuating the lyrical minutia of the introspective "Slightly Off Axis," the near clairvoyant interplay of Formanek's all-star quartet makes Small Places one of the finest albums of his career.


Track Listing: Small Places; Pong; Parting Ways; Rising Tensions And Awesome Light; Slightly Off Axis; Seeds And Birdman; Wobble And Spill; Soft Reality.

Personnel: Tim Berne: alto saxophone; Craig Taborn: piano; Michael Formanek: double bass; Gerald Cleaver: drums, shruti box.

Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: ECM Records | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

CD/LP/Track Review
Live From New York
CD/LP/Track Review
Live Reviews
Extended Analysis
Read more articles
The Distance
The Distance
ECM Records
2016
buy
Convallaria
Convallaria
Cuneiform Records
2016
buy
Small Places
Small Places
ECM Records
2012
buy
The Rub And Spare Change
The Rub And Spare...
ECM Records
2010
buy
[no cover]
Am I Bothering You?
Creative Sources
1998
buy
[no cover]
Low Profile
Creative Sources
1994
buy
Charlie Haden Charlie Haden
bass, acoustic
Paul Motian Paul Motian
drums
Sex Mob Sex Mob
band/orchestra
Tim Berne Tim Berne
saxophone
Steve Lacy Steve Lacy
sax, soprano
Ken Vandermark Ken Vandermark
saxophone
Jane Ira Bloom Jane Ira Bloom
sax, soprano
Craig Taborn Craig Taborn
keyboard
Django Bates Django Bates
piano
Chris Speed Chris Speed
saxophone

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.