Eberhard Weber electric double bass, keyboards
Ack van Rooyen flugelhorn
Live recordings 1990-2007
Engineers: Walter Speckmann and Gert Rickmann-Wunderlich
Mixed and edited at Studios La Buissonne, Pernes-les-Fontaines by Gérard de Haro and Sun Chung
Assistant engineer: Nicolas Baillard
Album produced by Manfred Eicher
Electro-bassist Eberhard Weber’s Encore continues where Résumé left off and is culled from the same tapes. As on the last album, a monumental achievement in and of itself, the music here came about during interludes played while touring with the Jan Garbarek Group between 1990 and 2007. Weber has fleshed out those solos in the studio with keyboards and, in a poignant surprise, the contributions of Dutch colleague Ack van Rooyen on flugelhorn. Die-hard fans will recognize van Rooyen from Weber’s 1974 debut, The Colours of Chloë, and will welcome his return for what will likely be Weber’s finale.
Weber’s instrument has been his dousing rod four decades running. The result of much customization and refinement, it took his playing in new and challenging directions, while also freeing him from the snares of its acoustic counterpart. Although he humbly sees the electric hybrid that would become his trademark as something of a mask behind which he learned to hide his lack of virtuosity, it’s plain to hear that he has defined a virtuosity all his own. Setting him apart is not only his sound, but also the robustness of his melodies. Whether created in the moment or meticulously crafted (every piece on this album, of course, being a combination of both), his songfulness captures something essential to the power of technology in the right hands.
As before, track titles are named for their places of origin. Rather than make any sort of emotional or thematic statement—aside, that is, from their indications of a musician’s traveling life—they serve as compass points in the relatively intangible cartography of musical development. What begins in “Frankfurt” as a thick, rubber-banded enclosure for van Rooyen’s low-flying lyricism and Weber’s own note thresholds ends in “Pamplona” with more primal, rhythmic tapping on strings and flashes of ageless energy. That said, we do well to avoid seeing these outer tracks as beginning and ending of a long journey. They are instead signposts made visible by the magical privilege of recorded media.
The range of Weber’s evocative power is on fullest display. At one end of the spectrum we find “Cambridge,” which swings its trunk like a gargantuan elephant, if not the arm of a person imitating one, before brighter, more playful textures take over. Subsequent modal explorations make Weber’s bass seem like a magnified oud shaped by a whimsical physics. At the other end are the enigmatic diversions at “Bradford,” a brilliant piece of clockwork rhythms and colorful shifts in texture, and a leaping carnivalesque from “Edinburgh.” Somewhere between the two are cinematic gems from “Rankwell” and “Klagenfurt.” Where one begins dreamily and sobers through van Rooyen’s soloing, the other twists a lucid dance into the stuff of fantasy, sending the flugelhorn off on a scouting mission into the unknown. There is, too, the stalking, catlike thing of “Sevilla,” in which rhythmic impulses skirt a line between realities.
Elsewhere, as in “Konstanz” and “Granada,” Weber unrolls richly woven carpets of synthesizer, so that by the time he exchanges telescope for microscope in “London,” we have that expanse thrumming already in our hearts. And even as we walk away thinking this may be the end of the line, we can rest assured that there is still much to learn by revisiting the past.
(To hear samples of Encore, click here.)
2 thoughts on “Eberhard Weber: Encore (ECM 2439)”
Many thanks, Tyran. Eberhard Weber is a musician whose work has always spoken to me in a deep and personal way. I take it from your comments that this release exhausts the reserve of live improvised recordings from Weber’s days as a Garbarek sideman, and so no further recordings such as this and Resume are to be expected. Is that right? At one point it seems to me I read that Eberhard was making progress in reviving his playing, post stroke. Is he still rehabilitating with a goal of playing again?
My understanding is that there were a good fifteen tracks left over from the Résumé sessions, from which were culled this last album. In the booklet interview, Weber makes it clear that he will no longer be performing. And if you haven’t seen it already, you should read John Kelman’s touching interview with Weber for All About Jazz.