Stages Of A Long Journey
Gary Burton vibraphone
Jan Garbarek soprano and tenor saxophones
Rainer Brüninghaus piano
Eberhard Weber bass
Marilyn Mazur percussion
SWR Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra
Roland Kluttig conductor
Recorded in concert, March 23/24, 2005, Theaterhaus Stuttgart
Engineer: Michael Sandner
Concert produced by Martin Mühleis
Stages Of A Long Journey documents the best moments of two March 2005 concerts in Stuttgart celebrating the 65th birthday of Eberhard Weber. The bassist has, of course, been a mainstay at ECM, where his comparable talents as composer and arranger have found room to flourish since his breakthrough “Colours” discs of the seventies. This is his first live record for the label he calls home.
The album’s roster represents decades of inter- and intra-musical friendship, and dots a compass of profound collaboration. Saxophonist Jan Garbarek, in whose self-named group Weber has performed alongside many of the other featured musicians, returns the favor by casting his nets back to tunes in which he was never originally involved. The elliptical nature of it all brews fresh ideas and colorations, especially in the duo track “Seven Movements,” in which Garbarek’s soprano rides the ember-glow of Weber’s arpeggios like a bird on the wing.
Another evocative duo comes in the form of “Yesterdays.” The 1930s show tune pairs Weber with surprise guest (and oldest ally of them all) Wolfgang Dauner, he of the elusive Output, at the keys. In this conversation, one encounters the joy with which the bassist emotes. This makes it the most nostalgic portion of the program, which is perhaps why Weber foregoes his trusty electrobass and, in a rare turn, goes unplugged for a spell on the standard upright.
Another wizard of the keyboard, Rainer Brüninghaus, is a necessary presence for such a performance. Having contributed atmospheric details to so many of Weber’s tapestries, he lifts the classic “The Colours of Chloë”—which opens the five-part Birthday Suite—to new heights. The combination of bass and piano here reaches across and beyond the ensemble’s stretched canvas. Brüninghaus furthers the suite with his original “Piano transition,” as does percussionist Marilyn Mazur in her “Percussion transition,” both satellites orbiting Weber’s dreamlike “Maurizius” in telepathic gravitation. Moreover, Vibraphonist Gary Burton makes his mark on “Yellow Fields,” the suite’s final offering. Here, too, is where the final pieces of the puzzle work most intuitively, as the 90-piece Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Roland Kluttig, transitions across newly fertilized surroundings with its unassuming blend.
Because there has always been something of an orchestral heart beating in Weber’s music, one should not put too much stock into its actualization herein. This is duly apparent in “Silent Feet.” As the album’s opener, it is as likely an introduction as any for those hearing these pieces for the first time, but on its waves bobs the unblemished torch of interpretation that Weber has carried all these years, reaching full conflagration in a new take on Carla Bley’s “Syndrome.” This pet tune takes listeners into exciting directions as Weber navigates a shifting mosaic—sometimes in triplicate, sometimes duplicate—with controlled heat.Percussionist Reto Weber and beatboxing phenomenon Nino G join in the fun for “Hang Around” (a wordplay on Reto’s hang drum), much to the audience’s obvious delight. It is a playful interlude, but an equally conducive facet of the bassist’s prism, as is “The Last Stage Of A Long Journey,” a veritable origami figure of wind, land, and, above all, light.
Eberhard Weber’s music is a process of translation. Through it all, his bass is a visceral, thrumming magnet that seems to emerge from the very earth even while burrowing into it. His musical language is interlocking yet contrapuntal. Like an open book, its pages contain infinite wisdom but come together at the spine. All the more appropriate that Weber should end solo with “Air.” A summation but also a beginning, it is a badge of honor as only he can wear it.