Posts Tagged ‘Manfred Eicher’

Keith Jarrett Gets Down on His Own

November 18, 2013

Keith Jarrett’s new album, No End, is a Jam Band of one.

No EndIf you’re shocked by any direction that Keith Jarrett takes, then you haven’t been paying attention.  The peripatetic pianist has recorded albums on solo pipe organ (Hymns/Spheres) and clavichord (Book of Ways). He’s recorded classical works from Bach to Mozart, including Bach’s Six Sonatas for Violin and Piano with violinist Michelle Makarski just this past September.  Jarrett was an early exponent of Arvo Pärt (Tabula Rasa) and took on the music of the mystic G. I. Gurdjieff (Sacred Hymns).  And let’s not forget his second album.  He followed his debut, a trio jazz release with Charlie Haden and Paul Motian, with Restoration Ruin, a singer-songwriter outing with Jarrett crooning in a Bob Dylan impersonation complete with harmonica. In a case of foreshadowing, he played every instrument himself.

So when Jarrett decides to create a jam band with him as the only member of the group, you shouldn’t be surprised. No End was recorded in 1986, the year after Spirits, which used a similar technique of Jarrett alone in his studio, using two cassette tape decks to overdub himself, bouncing tracks from one deck to the other.  It’s the anti-Manfred Eicher/ECM Records recording aesthetic.

SpiritsBut No End is the yin to Spirits yang.  Spirits was soft and meditative, with wood flutes, recorders and tablas. While No End is dreamy in its own way, it’s more the dreaming of an after-hours jam in a New Orleans nightclub.  There is a drugged out, heroin suffused mood to this album, with vamps that could go on forever and solos that meander like cigarette smoke, all of which are interesting analogies for a musician who has long eschewed drugs and cigarettes and the culture that surrounds them.

The first track will have you popping the CD out to make sure this is a Keith Jarrett disc you’ve inserted.  It opens to shakers, a snaky, swamp-walk bass line and Jarrett soloing freely and melodically, not on piano, but electric guitar, evoking a backwater storyteller or an African griot.  In fact, there’s a lot of Africa in Jarrett’s guitar playing, with his terse, slightly reverbed tone and cross-picking lines that recall Ali Farka Toure in an especially dreamy mood. Some of these tracks, like the blues-inflected “VI” could’ve been on a Les Baxter/Martin Denny space-age bachelor pad album.  All you need are the jungle animal noises.

Keith Jarrett

Keith Jarrett

Jarrett’s drumming and percussion veer between congo village grooves to Muscle Shoals earthiness.  The bass, a central sound on this album, is sensual, probing and as rubbery as Jim Carrey’s face.  The only recognizably Jarrett signature here is his grunt, which you hear occasionally, but usually his vocalizing is turned into trancy choirs on “XI” or murmuring voices on “III”  On “IV” he gets an “Iko Iko” style chant going ala the Dixie Cups.

No End, like Spirits, was completely improvised and occasionally comes off as casual to the point of off-handedness.  On “XII,” he sounds like he’s tuning up the bass, literally, before it slips into an ostinato groove.

You could see No End as the ultimate form of narcissism. In the liner notes, Jarrett himself says that “the pitfalls of playing music in a band are the ‘differences’ between each player’s musical experiences.”  That’s something a lot of bands would celebrate, but Jarrett eliminated the differences, playing an ensemble music without the ensemble, jamming with himself in what could be perceived as an exercise in total self-gratification. But Jarrett is a multi-dimensional musician and he pulls off these jams as if it were, indeed, a band, reacting and coaxing each other along in his lazy haze of sound.  This is as earthy and funky as Jarrett has ever been.  And if you don’t drift away, he does slip in some piano on “X”.

John Diliberto (((echoes)))


InnocentsNew members of the Echoes CD of the Month Club will get Moby’s Innocents album, our November CD of the Month and a BONUS CD of Bombay Dub Orchestra’s Tales from the Grand Bazaar.  You’ll get great CDs and help support Echoes at the same time.  You’ll also get the new Echoes CD, Transmissions: The Echoes Living Room Concerts V19, You can do it all right here. You
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New Albion Records Heads Out to Sea

August 6, 2012

New Albion Logo

People talk a lot about Indie labels and music these days, but back in the 1980s when Indie required a real commitment, New Albion Records sailed against the winds.  Like its namesake, the ambiguous spot on the Pacific Coast where Sir Francis Drake landed in 1579, they found new musical lands,  releasing avant-garde contemporary music by artists who became some of the leading composers of the day.  Founded in 1983, this was in the pre-CD, pre-internet days when it took a fair amount of money and ambition to actually make music and put it on a medium accessible by the public, vinyl albums.  Foster Reed, the founder of New Albion, had that ambition.

Ingram Marshall Fog Tropes

Who knew who Ingram Marshall was when his seminal minimalist ambient album, Fog Tropes, was released in 1983?  It was used in the soundtrack to Shutter Island. Who would’ve dared put out Stephen Scott’s luminously ascendant New Music for Bowed Piano? Long before John Adams was an internationally renowned orchestral and operatic composer, he was releasing albums of pristine minimalism like Shaker Loops/Light Over Water on New Albion.   Foster Reed and New Albion knew.

Reed was the Manfred Eicher of the avant-garde.  If ECM’s Eicher had a gyroscope balanced between beauty and improvisation, Reed had one rotating at the intersection between beauty and invention.  He discovered artists like Japanese composer Somei Satoh, who was merging traditional sounds with expansive, contemplative sensibilities.  He released some of the earliest recordings by Bang on A Can member Evan Ziporyn and he put out the first album by computer composer Paul Lansky.  Lanksy’s composition, “Mild und Leise” was sampled by Radiohead on “Idioteque” from Kid A.

John Luther Adams The Far Country

But besides being a champion of new composers like David Hykes, Richard Teitelbaum and John Luther Adams, Foster revived interest in music from Lou Harrison, Morton Feldman, and John Cage .  Who else was putting out CDs sung in Esperanto like Harrison’s La Koro Sutro?  New Albion’s release of Pauline OliverosDeep Listening established the template for musicians like Steve Roach and other drone zone pilots who explore the inner vibrations of sound and texture.

Minimalists, post-minimalists and maximalists were all embraced by New Albion.  The label contributed to the resurgence of minimalist pioneer Terry Riley giving  a home to some of the more challenging works by Riley along with a wonderful 25th Anniversary recording of In C.  Daniel Lentz’s Missa Umbrarum took minimalism to church and Carl Stone excavated loops.

When Echoes was created in 1989, one of the initial cornerstones of the show was music put out by New Albion.  And 23 years later, the roots of Ambient Chamber music heard so much on the show –  from Harold Budd (who also recorded on New Albion) to Ólafur Arnalds to the August CD of the Month selection, Sebastian Plano’s The Arrhythmical Part of Hearts,  – can be traced back to the music world of New Albion Records.  I must admit, that although we’ve played recent music from the label like Slow Six’s Nor’easter, on Echoes, our musical orbit had moved away from the label’s oeuvre over the last decade or so even though New Albion albums by Lou Harrison, Ingram Marshall and Stephen Scott are works to which we still return.

New Albion came into the world when it seemed like new classical music would become part of the popular vernacular.  The atonal and serial tropes of an earlier generation gave way to a new breed of composers who weren’t afraid of melody, mood, atmosphere and whose sensibilities were rooted in the contemporary global culture in all its manifestations rather than a rarefied academic world. In that it’s influence can be found in modern music, it was a cultural success.   In that it’s audience was diminishing at the same time that music distribution paradigms changed, it couldn’t keep up.

In his farewell remarks on the New Albion website Foster Reed writes:

Our audience has always been artists musicians, composers, dancers and all those who like to stare out of the windows of perception.

The view from those windows is now a bit bleaker without New Albion Records.

Ten Essential New Albion Recordings

John Adams Shaker Loops/Light Over Water

1 John Adams    Shaker Loops – Light Over Water
2 Ingram Marshall Fog Tropes
3 Lou Harrison  La Koro Sutro
4 Karlheinz Stockhausen   Mantra
5 Stephen Scott New Music for Bowed Piano
6 Somei Satoh    Sun-Moon
7 John Luther Adams  The Far Country
8 Terry Riley In C (25th Anniversary Concert)
9 Pauline Oliveros   Deep Listening
10 Morton Feldman Rothko Chapel – Why Patterns

~© 2012 John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

Echoes On LineYou get great CDs like Sebastian Plano’s The Arrhythmical Part of Hearts by becoming a member of the Echoes CD of the Month Club.  Follow the link and see what you’ve been missing.

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Echo Location: The Sound of Freedom with Marcin Wasilewksi Trio

November 19, 2008

Polish musicians find freedom in American Jazz

Wasilewski-Kurkiewicz-Miskiewicz @ Turtle Studios

Wasilewski-Kurkiewicz-Miskiewicz @ Turtle Studios

listen-icons-14x14You can hear an audio version of this blog with music.

The Marcin Wasilewski Trio is one of those young bands like The Bad Plus that isn’t afraid to cover rock tunes in a modern jazz context. On their two ECM records they’ve created ethereal arrangements of songs by Bjork and Prince‘s “Diamonds and Pearls.”

You would think that three Polish musicians in their early 30s would just be playing straight up Rock ‘n’ Roll like most of the world, but that’s not the case with the Marcin Wasilewski Trio. Wasilewski is the pianist in the group and when he was just 13, he was hearing another sound.
Sun Ship

Marcin Wasilewski: I remember I was listening to the Doors, Jimi Hendrix it was such a big power, but then when I was listening to Coltrane Live at the Village Vanguard or Sunship, it was much stronger energy than in rock.

Live at the Village Vanguard
Jazz also had a message for kids living under communist rule.  Drummer Michel Miskiewicz.

Michael Miskiewicz: This jazz music which gives big freedom. When we were young it was still communist time, so this freedom was important for everybody.

Lontano The Marcin Wasilewski Trio has been expressing that freedom, albeit in a much more subdued mode,  on a quartet of albums, including two for the ECM record label . The band has been playing together since they were teenagers. When they were just between 16 and 18 years old, they were tapped by legendary Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko to be in his band. Stanko was already a jazz star, playing a melodic brand of free improvisation, and had been recording for ECM since the 1970s.

ECM producer Manfred Eicher heard the group in the studio with Stanko and offered them their own recording. Their music is a study in intuitive improvisation and chamber jazz. They’re in a lineage with early cerebral ECM artists like pianists Paul Bley, Bobo Stenson and especially Keith Jarrett. They all cite members of Jarrett’s bands as inspirations.

Slawomir Kurkiewisz: I was influenced by [bassists] Charlie Haden and Gary Peacock.

Michael Miskiewicz: I think Jack DeJohnette is one of the greatest drummers that I really like.

Marcin Wasilewski: There was a video tape of Keith Jarrett in Tokyo Live. I was listening to this tape every day for one and a half year.

Trio January On their new album, January, you can hear that influence, and how they transform it.  You can hear a full interview with the Marcin Wasilewski Trio on Echoes,  Thursday night, November 20 and look for a live Echoes performance in December. This has been an Echo Location, soundings for new music.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

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