Richard Beirach: Eon (ECM 1054)

Richard Beirach
Eon

Richard Beirach piano
Frank Tusa bass
Jeff Williams drums
Recorded November 1974 at Generation Sound Studios, New York
Engineer: Tony May
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Eon was the first album under the New York-born Richard Beirach’s name, and arguably still his best. Its balance of rhythm, melody, and reflection epitomizes the piano trio format, and nowhere more so than “Nardis” (Davis/Evans), the 14-minute epic that opens this set of six progressively far-reaching tunes. ECM listeners may recognize its lovely vamp as performed by Ralph Towner on his unparalleled Solo Concert of 1979. Here, it glows under a full and vibrant touch. Beirach keeps his fingers busily engaged, while allowing his rhythm section some glorious airtime, winding down like a rock band extending power chords, only here in a more intimate space in which that prolonging becomes not a dramatic farewell but the acceptance of a new beginning. “Places” (Dave Liebman) is an effervescent piano solo with all the romanticism one might expect from such a consummate musician. It also gives us a preview of his solo album Hubris, which would be soon to come. “Seeing You” (Tusa/Beirach) continues in much the same vein, but reintroduces the smooth glide of brushed drums and bass. A subtle rhythmic acuity and free and easy interplay suspend the listener in a swaying hammock of nostalgia. Block chords burrow through the title track with a hint of dissonance before flowering in calmer pastures. Fair, extended performances make this the culmination of the album’s surrounding gestures. Sentiments build into ecstasy before a final sprinkling from piano and cymbals is flicked into darkness like water from glittering fingertips. “Bones” at last puts more sticks to skin as Beirach recedes for tearful bass solo, hitting the occasional accent to keep us chordally ground. “Mitsuku” closes us out in style with a gratifying promise.

An easy album to get lost in, for at its gates one sees no need for maps.

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