All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

1

Michael Formanek: Small Places

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
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.

Title: Small Places | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: ECM Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Best of / Year End
CD/LP/Track Review
Live From New York
CD/LP/Track Review
Live Reviews
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
 

Ground Rush

Clean Feed Records
2010

buy

Related Articles

Read Gegenschein CD/LP/Track Review
Gegenschein
by Karl Ackermann
Published: July 15, 2018
Read Perception CD/LP/Track Review
Perception
by Jerome Wilson
Published: July 15, 2018
Read DeiCont | Philips Collective CD/LP/Track Review
DeiCont | Philips Collective
by Geno Thackara
Published: July 15, 2018
Read Cooking Groove CD/LP/Track Review
Cooking Groove
by Jim Olin
Published: July 15, 2018
Read Heaven & Earth CD/LP/Track Review
Heaven & Earth
by Roger Farbey
Published: July 15, 2018
Read Heart Of Brazil CD/LP/Track Review
Heart Of Brazil
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: July 14, 2018
Read "Journey Moments" CD/LP/Track Review Journey Moments
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: July 8, 2018
Read "Invisible Touch At Taktlos Zurich" CD/LP/Track Review Invisible Touch At Taktlos Zurich
by John Sharpe
Published: May 26, 2018
Read "Concert Of The Century" CD/LP/Track Review Concert Of The Century
by Mark E. Gallo
Published: August 10, 2017
Read "Ravensburg" CD/LP/Track Review Ravensburg
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 16, 2018
Read "Celebrating William Parker at 65" CD/LP/Track Review Celebrating William Parker at 65
by John Sharpe
Published: April 1, 2018
Read "EP 1" CD/LP/Track Review EP 1
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 16, 2018