Wolfert Brederode Quartet: Currents (ECM 2004)


Wolfert Brederode Quartet

Wolfert Brederode piano
Claudio Puntin clarinets
Mats Eilertsen double-bass
Samuel Rohrer drums
Recorded June 2006 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Dutch pianist Wolfert Brederode, previously heard buoying the voice of Susanne Abbuehl on April and Compass, makes his ECM leader debut, fronting a quartet of lyric integrity. Brederode takes the standard piano trio, fleshed here by bassist Mats Eilertsen and drummer Samuel Rohrer, and adds to it the clarinet of Claudio Puntin for a sound that is distinctly “chamber jazz” yet something more. That something more comes out through the plurivocity of Brederode’s compositions, which in the hands of these capable sound-smiths take to their own measures of flight from note one.

Indeed, it’s hard not to be won over after the first few moments of “Common Fields.” As the album’s introduction, its work is twofold. First, it establishes a taste of things to come. Second, and equally important, it testifies to producer Manfred Eicher’s ear for sequencing. With its piano arpeggios, curling like the lips of a foamy tide, it paints a geography as vivid as sunset. The clarinet wanders onto land like an abandoned ship whose ghosts drag the heavy chains of memory as their bounty. Eilertsen marks their footprints in the sand, claiming the island as their own. As the rhythm section becomes more apparent, the diction becomes starker, more animated, turning pathos into chaos and back again. Along with the dazzling poetics of “Scarabee” and “Ebb,” this track evokes atmospheres not unlike ECM’s unforgettable The Sea. Fans of the same are sure to feel right at home, while also expanding their purview toward this quartet’s landscaping.

Other points of confluence crop up along the way. “Empty Room,” for example, recalls the opening tune (“Nicolette”) of Kenny Wheeler’s Angel Song, while Abbuehl’s “As You July Me” (the album’s only tune not by Brederode and an ode to E. E. Cummings) draws from the pianist’s longstanding alliance with the Swiss jazz vocalist and proceeds accordingly with lush pacing. Much of the album’s remainder traces bridges of harmony over nocturnal divides. Some tracks (“High & Low”) glisten like rain-slicked streets; others (“Desiderata”) adopt inward-looking posture, taking in the clarinet’s sunrays for denser foliage and deeper roots. The feeling moves from water to land, emerging in “Soil” like an animal from hibernation amid splashes of light and shadow, and spouting elliptical wisdom in “Frost Flower.” The latter is an album highlight, a snowflake turned miracle in the cold, cold wind.

The tenderest moments come in the form of “With Them,” an interlude for piano and clarinet, and the concluding “Barcelona,” a strangely twisted path through rarely trodden alleyways. The pianism seeks what it finds: a storehouse of experience waiting to be written, played, and heard.

Although Brederode and his companions never stray too far afield, there is genuine freedom working beneath all the precision. It’s the best of both worlds, and makes worlds of both.

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