Markus Stockhausen flugelhorn, trumpet
Florian Weber piano
Recorded July 2015, Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI, Lugano
Engineer: Stefano Amerio
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Release date: April 1, 2016
Markus Stockhausen has walked a jagged path through the annals of ECM, but the German trumpeter can always be counted on to provide an experience that is unique, unforced, and above all genuine. On Alba, he presents for the first time in studio his collaboration with pianist Florian Weber. Six years in the making, this music and the interactions built around it are vessels of experiential intensity rounded by currents of thoughtfulness.
The album’s 15-track program shuffles originals and improvisations from both musicians in a stacked deck of melodic beauty. Weber’s end of the spectrum is concerned with honor and past reflections. In the latter vein, his opener “What can I do for you?” is dedicated to the late John Taylor, a vital ECM presence under whom he first studied as a young piano student. Like Taylor, he realizes that, in order to access the piano’s inner voice, those playing it must be willing to let go of their own.
Weber is a painter in sound. Whether evoking shifting granules of sand in “Emergenzen” or fantastical impressions in “Die weise Zauberin,” he wields every key as one would a brush. He’s also more prone to playfulness, as in “Surfboard,” a tune that precisely illustrates the duo’s creative process. As musical surfers, they know firsthand the value of a reliable board and choice wave, but use those parameters as prerequisites for joyful freedom. Weber’s “Emilio” is a highlight for turning a familiar arpeggio into a surprising vehicle for Stockhausen, who reaches expansively across intimate geographies.
Stockhausen’s universe combines the theoretical and the spontaneous. His “Mondtraum,” “Synergy Melody,” and “Zehpir” have their genesis in classical contexts, but here are pared to their base elements. His own whimsy emerges in “Befreiung,” albeit in a more cleanly predetermined vein, while “Better World” serves as a poignant expression of hope, transitioning from mournful reflection to twirling dance in a masterful turn of phrase.
Scattered improvisations round out the proceedings. Of these, the duetted “Ishta” is heartfelt to the extreme. In “Resonances,” Stockhausen plays directly into the piano, wherein untouched strings reverberate sympathetically, while “Barycenter,” “Possibility I,” and “Today” finds Weber alone with nothing but intuition to lead the way.
In addition to the richly flowing music, Alba is significant for being Stockhausen’s first for ECM in 16 years and for being Weber’s label debut. A release to be treasured.