Jarrett/Haden/Motian: Hamburg ’72 (ECM 2422)

Hamburg 1972

Keith Jarrett
Charlie Haden
Paul Motian
Hamburg ’72

Keith Jarrett piano, soprano saxophone, flute, percussion
Charlie Haden double bass
Paul Motian drums, percussion
NDR-Jazz-Workshop 1972
Radio producer: Michael Naura
Recording engineer: Hans-Heinrich Breitkreuz
Recorded live June 14, 1972 in Hamburg
Remixed July 12, 2014 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo by Jan Erik Kongshaug and Manfred Eicher
Album produced by Manfred Eicher

We may only speculate as to the untold Keith Jarrett riches still locked away in ECM’s vaults. The releases of Sleeper and, more recently, No End were but the tip of what is shaping up to be a majestic mountain indeed. Where those albums respectively showed us Jarrett’s European Quartet and homebody experiments, here lies something in between: a fearless document of a composer and improviser at the top of his game. Make that three.

We may make much of the fact that bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Paul Motian are no longer with us, and that hearing them in this impervious creative triangle is like witnessing a resurrection. The trio was Jarrett’s first power group and had been in existence for six years already before the capture of this live recording at Hamburg’s NDR Funkhaus. Mixed by Manfred Eicher from the master tapes with engineer Jan Erik Kongshaug at Oslo’s Rainbow Studio in 2014—one day, we learn from the album’s press release, after Haden’s death—it is now in the public ear and here to stay.

Jarrett Hamburg

We may marvel at the nostalgic archaeology of Jarrett’s compositions, of which the thumbnail “Life, Dance” is exclusive to this album. Its breath of an intro gives the floor to Haden, who confirms mastery in less than three minutes. Haden and Jarrett slip hand-to-glove in “Everything That Lives Laments,” only now the pianist abandons keys for the spirit song of a wooden flute over Motian’s jangling percussion. Haden works the land until the piano sprouts from it like a tree. The sunny-side-up “Piece For Ornette” reminds us not only of Haden’s former tenure with Coleman, but also of what Jarrett might have been in another life: a soprano saxophonist of invention and merit. His dance finds purchase on an invigorating carpet, as laid down by attuned rhythmatists, lighting up the sky with firework potential. Motian is no less incendiary, but lights his playing as if by match to kerosene, keen to catch the ashes of Jarrett’s high-velocity chromatism in hands cupped like upturned cymbals. Lastly for this crop is “Take Me Back,” in which Haden’s echoes yield more reactive bassing. Equal parts jam band session (listen for Jarrett on tambourine for a spell before diving back into the keyboard) and gospel gush, it launches the trio into a prime, if not primal, groove.

We may further delight in the album’s outer edges. “Rainbow” opens with a hands-in-the-earth intro from Jarrett, whose first wife Margot pens the tune. In realizing the latter’s thematic structure, the full trio slides organically into place. Motian’s starry cymbals are foregrounded, while Jarrett caroms from one to another, leaving constellations in his wake. At the other end is “Song For Che,” which in this intimate, 15-minute version unclogs previously neglected arteries of interpretation. As the crowning jewel of Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, it defines personal and historic eras alike. After the leaping and lurking of Jarrett’s soprano, Haden works his arco magic to call the piano back into being before wading through the marsh alone toward closure, alive as ever.

We may do all of this and more, but forget that every act becomes part of the grander archive the moment it transpires. So while you’re enjoying this surprise dug up from the past with a glass of wine, take a moment to stare at your own reflection in that circle of burgundy and know that you are part of the music’s history as well.

(To hear samples of Hamburg ’72, click here.)

Keith Jarrett/Charlie Haden: Last Dance (ECM 2399)

Last Dance

Last Dance

Keith Jarrett piano
Charlie Haden double bass
Recording Producer: Keith Jarrett
Recorded March 2007 at Cavelight Studio
Engineer: Martin Pearson
Mastering at MSM Studios by Manfred Eicher and Christoph Stickel
Executive Producer: Manfred Eicher

Seeing as this was to be Charlie Haden’s final record, one could easy read mournful prophecy into Last Dance. To be sure, its poignancy is as heavy as the burden of the bassist’s loss. To do so, however, risks obscuring the fact that the music under its title stretches seams by virtue of an abundance of life. Born of the same sessions as Jasmine, the lovingly interpreted standards of Last Dance again find Haden in the company of pianist Keith Jarrett, who once characterized this rare partner as a musician who thinks through whatever melody comes his way.

Keith and Charlie

From the first few steps of “My Old Flame,” it’s clear these two men walk not together but along complementary paths, their shadows interlocking at any point along the trajectory of a tune. And by this forlorn song’s guiding hand, held above the starving ear like that of a Reiki master, an inner heat comes through. There is an album’s worth of feeling in this opener alone, and its flame is sustained in all that follows. It sets a proportional pace of love and loss that echoes throughout “Every Time We Say Goodbye” and “It Might As Well Be Spring.” That latter brings an especially joyful yet contemplative tone to the emerging image.

Lest we fall into a homogeneous meditation, the duo adds one part spice for every two of sugar. Be they navigating the rhythmic changeups of “Dance Of The Infidels” or leaping through the sprinklers of “Everything Happens To Me,” Haden and Jarrett sand down every jagged edge they encounter. True to the title of “My Ship,” they do not soar so much as sail, opening canvas to wind and mapping its lead. Their grandest voyage is an integral take on “’Round Midnight.” In addition to Jarrett’s oceanic foundation, it boasts a superbly architected solo from Haden, who builds a spire of song, robust as a centuries-old tree at the bottom yet thin as a whisper up top.

Alternate takes of “Where Can I Go Without You” and “Goodbye” carry over from Jasmine with even grander intimacy. Despite the bittersweet core of both, they feel like new beginnings. Each is a door of appreciation opened in the listener, from which pours memories of Haden’s legacy, thus making room for new ones to come. The musicians are achingly present, even as they transcend minds toward lyrical enlightenment. They flip through the Great American Songbook not as one might a newspaper, but resolutely and sincerely, as if it were scripture.

Given the lengths of these tunes (averaging about nine minutes each), I like to think that Haden and Jarrett might have spun any of them into a lifetime of improvisation. And perhaps, in a way, they already have. They play off each other so artfully before trading a single solo that solos begin to feel more like roots than departures. No matter how virtuosic their skills, the melody remains forever paramount. This album is like one massive song that will continue to evolve even after those who left its traces have improvised their way into another plane of existence entirely. And while Last Dance may be called cinematic, it differs from cinema in one key aspect: where cinema so often concerns itself with fictional characters, here the subjects are anything but. They are so real, it almost hurts to witness their conversation.

If Jarrett is the body, Haden is the soul.

(To hear samples of Last Dance, watch the video above or click here.)

Charlie Haden/Egberto Gismonti: In Montreal (ECM 1746)

In Montreal

Charlie Haden
Egberto Gismonti
In Montreal

Charlie Haden double-bass
Egberto Gismonti guitar, piano
Recorded July 6, 1989, Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, Salle Marie-Gérin-Lajoie, Université du Québec
Recorded by La Chaîne culturelle de Radio-Canada
Recording and mixing engineers: Alain Chénier and Michel Larivière
Editing and mastering: Denis Leclerc
Recording and mixing producer: Daniel Vachon
Executive producer: Manfred Eicher

Twelve years after it was recorded at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, this landmark performance by legendary American bassist Charlie Haden and Brazilian guitarist-pianist Egberto Gismonti at last saw the light of day in 2001. The concert marks the sixth of eight organized by the festival in celebration of Haden’s ongoing legacy. Haden had plenty of experience playing with Gismonti as part of their Magico trio with Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek, yet the distillations offered here are entirely of another plane.

From the Magico songbook the duo plays “Palhaço” (a trio staple by Gismonti), as well as the Haden-penned “Silence.” Both feature Gismonti’s astonishing pianism, balancing florid biospheres with ponderous asides, Haden all the while drafting the terms of endearment by which every page turns. Haden the composer also reveals the set’s deepest piece: “First Song.” Featuring Gismonti on acoustic guitar, its intuition soars for all its quietude. A pleasant street scene, a childhood memory, a favorite scent in the air…exchanging glances in a melodic triangle. Such trade-offs mark the session for its selfless ingenuity. So, too, the jangly undercurrents of opener “Salvador” and “Em Familia,” both of which reference Gismonti’s work with Academia de Danças and, as such, reflect a bold unity of purpose. The latter’s invigoration grabs scruffs and throws us skyward, even as it gives us wings to fly. And fly we do into quiet pockets of cloud, each the eye of a storm where the leaves barely tremble to the tune of Gismonti’s masterful harmonics. Also notably from the Academia repertoire are “Maracatú,” a study in contrasts, and “Frevo,” in which pointillism at the piano inspires dramatic, resonant depths from Gismonti’s partner. “Don Quixote” (previously featured on Duas Vozes with percussionist Nana Vasconcelos) closes with an elegy-turned-anthem, a shifting ocean of temperate love.

Although there is much to admire in Gismonti’s prodigious guitar playing, it’s at the piano where his musicality truly shines. How wonderful to get so much of it here. And no bassist crafts melodies quite like Haden. He keeps the earth in mind, even when there is nothing but sky ahead of us, scaling the ladder from light to dark and back to light while Gismonti filigrees his playing like a frame around a picture. In Montreal is a must-have for fans of these unique talents, who together forge a distinctly “global” sound: not world music, but music for the world.

Garbarek/Gismonti/Haden: Magico – Carta de Amor (ECM 2280/81)

Magico – Carta de Amor

Jan Garbarek tenor and soprano saxophones
Egberto Gismonti guitars, piano
Charlie Haden double-bass
Recorded live April 1981, Amerika Haus, München
Recording engineer: Martin Wieland, Tonstudio Bauer
Mixed 2011 at Rainbow Studio by Jan Erik Konghaug and Manfred Eicher
Produced by Manfred Eicher

“I know that the stars when I vanish will remain pegged way up there, fixed, immutable, gazing on the absurd hustle and bustle of men, small and ridiculous, striving with each other during the sole second of life allotted them to learn and to know about themselves, wasting it stupidly, killing one another, the ones fighting to avert exploitation by the others.”
–Dolores Ibárruri

2012 has seen quite the magic act of releases from ECM’s archives. The encore comes literally so in the case of Magico: Carta de Amor, as the trio of saxophonist Jan Garbarek, guitarist/pianist Egberto Gismonti, and bassist Charlie Haden takes the stage in newly restored 1981 performances at Munich’s Amerika Haus, host to such classic recordings as Ralph Towner’s Solo Concert and the Art Ensemble of Chicago’s Urban Bushmen. From their studio work, these three mavericks draw a distinct blend of signatures, while from the two years spent touring prior to this recording they accomplish feats of improvisation that perhaps no studio could have induced or contained.

Bookended by two versions of Gismonti’s title track, a beautiful love letter indeed to the wonders within, Haden’s 16.5-minute tribute to Dolores Ibárruri, “La Pasionaria,” lends substance to the feathers in between. The entrance of bass is as effortless as it is invisible, dropping into the foreground as it does from the line of Garbarek’s ornamental reed. Changing his Liberation Music Orchestra clothing for something more romantic, Haden offers “All That Is Beautiful” (making its first appearance on record), an emotionally epic vehicle for Gismonti, who takes seat at the keyboard and sprinkles it with clouds and weighted dew.

If these are the tire tracks left behind, then “Cego Aderaldo” is the vehicle that left them. Driven by the 12 focused strings of its composer, it keeps us balanced along the album’s craggiest terrain. Here Garbarek does something wondrous as he opens the passenger-side door and jumps over the cliff, spreading burnished metal wings across a landscape that welcomes his flight with thermals galore. Gismonti continues on, spiraling up to the apex. There he plants not a flag of conquest, but seeds of thanksgiving. From the dulcet “Branquinho,” with its distant ideas of brotherhood, to the shining reprise of “Palhaço,” his fulfilling melodies bring out the playful best in Garbarek. If there were ever any doubts about the group’s unity, let “Don Quixote” stand as Exhibit A toward quelling them. Like the novel for which it is named, it is a critique of belittlement and insincerity in a society gone mad. It moves at the leisurely pace of a mule whose grandeur resides not without but within.

Garbarek gives us a triangle of stars, including folk song arrangements that whistle through dynamic peaks and valleys and a fully opened rendition of “Spor” (compare this to its infancy in the studio on Magico). To this mysterious canvas, Garbarek applies shadow on shadow, seeking out wounds of color in the language of his band mates before diving into repose.

(Photos by Ralph Quinke)

While the unity expressed by these musicians is surely enthralling, it comes closest to perfection in the monologues. Garbarek’s energy is, if I may appropriate a Douglas Hofstadter subtitle, an eternal golden braid—one that nourishes itself on the light of which it is made, self-replicating and beyond the measure of value. Haden unfolds themes fractally. Trundling through empty streets with dog-eared book in hand and love in its margins, he brings closure to uprisings of the heart. Gismonti, for his part, is as breath is to lungs.

Let their individuality inspire you to action.

(To hear samples from Carta de Amor, click here.)

Charlie Haden: The Ballad Of The Fallen (ECM 1248)


Charlie Haden
The Ballad Of The Fallen

Charlie Haden bass
Carla Bley piano, glockenspiel, arrangements
Don Cherry pocket trumpet
Sharon Freeman French horn
Mick Goodrick guitar
Jack Jeffers tuba
Michael Mantler trumpet
Paul Motian drums, percussion
Jim Pepper tenor, soprano saxophones, flute
Dewey Redman tenor saxophone
Steve Slagle alto, soprano saxophones, clarinet, flute
Gary Valente trombone
Recorded November 1982, Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Don’t ask me who I am
Or if you knew me
The dreams that I had
Will grow even though I’m no longer here.

Jazz is a music of oppression, or rather about resisting it. As such, it has the potential to liberate listeners—and, perhaps more importantly, performers—in ways that few other genres can. Which is precisely the paradox of the purist: in order to get to the heart of jazz, one must shut up and feel it. Intellectualizing just gets in the way. Charlie Haden is a purist, but it took him years to achieve that title, and his Liberation Music Orchestra represents a coming into his own as a musician, as a human being, as a force of peace and respect.

The LMO took shape at a time of upheaval. The Vietnam War was coming to a head, and the taste it seems to have left in Haden’s mouth could only be washed out with music. Through his sporadic activities with the LMO (the collective has averaged only one album per decade since its inception in the late 1960s), Haden now had a voice with which to purge widening circles of listeners of the warmongering and corruption he saw all around him until, hopefully, those circles began to touch. It was the voice of those who could not speak except through histories, a voice honed in the communal spirit that breathes through every note he’s played since.

Haden never chose his material in the authorial sense; the politics chose him. By the time of The Ballad Of The Fallen, the Reagan administration was pouring military spending into Central America, where Contra death squads left tens of thousands dead and corrupted countless others by covertly sponsoring dictatorial regimes and, by extension, their drug cartels. This brings us to Haden’s purism in another sense: as a onetime narcotics addict long since sober, he knew well the dangers of letting go of music’s hand. And so, through this second recording he and the LMO inscribed a poem of mourning for those who lost their lives in such conflicts, as well in the Spanish Civil War, for he might very well have become an indirect casualty had he not been awakened. Such motivations were never a gimmick in Haden’s hands, and the balanced arrangements, courtesy of Carla Bley, speak to (and for) hearts and minds committed to outreach.

“Els Segadors” (The Reapers), a song of revolt from the Spanish Civil War that would later become an anthem for the Catalan Republic, begins with a somber elegy for brass, which then flowers with the introduction of a funereal snare and glockenspiel. With this somber tone set, the heartrending El Salvadorean song that makes up the title track finds ground in Haden alongside Motian’s drums and the acoustic guitar of Mick Goodrick. The words it only hints at were discovered on the body of a student protester, who along with others died by military hands during a university sit-in. After two darkly lit marches, each insightful horn solo therein a message in a tarnished bottle, we arrive at “Introduction To People.” Bley’s first of two contributions to the album has the sweep of some of the early Arild Andersen quartets and is only enhanced by her rolling pianism and Haden’s ever-pellucid bass. Her second piece is “Too Late,” a pensive duet for piano and bass that frays into majestic horns. It is also the session’s heartbeat.

The Chilean freedom fighters’ anthem “The People United Will Never Be Defeated” lifts us upon a delicate floating carpet of horns, who continue to emote in the heavier “Silence” (Haden’s sole composition and among the session’s more powerful) that follows. In this chain of four-step phrases, we find ourselves lost in the memory of that which we can never know. Goodrick spins chant-like threads throughout “La Pasionaria,” suspended like stars while Dewey Redman plots his tenor along less determinable trajectories. Bley’s keys whip like a sidewinder through this rare breath of hope while Haden emotes as nowhere else. The Catalonian song “La Santa Espina” reprises the martial feeling with which the album began and breaks into a powerful reinstatement from brass.

This is a continuous suite of moods drifting through a passage in foliated time. The album’s resignations are palpable at every turn, each inhaling mourning and exhaling hope. This is death and memory, rebirth and diffusion, the flame of a forgotten past kept alive in the cavity of an unparalleled instrument and its practitioner.

<< Lester Bowie: All The Magic! (ECM 1246/47)
>> Harald Weiss: Trommelgeflüster (ECM 1249 NS)

Denny Zeitlin/Charlie Haden: Time Remembers One Time Once (ECM 1239)

1239 X

Denny Zeitlin
Charlie Haden
Time Remembers One Time Once

Denny Zeitlin piano
Charlie Haden bass
Recorded live at Keystone Korner, San Francisco, July 1981
Engineer: Robert Shumaker
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Recorded in the intimate confines of San Francisco’s legendary Keystone Korner, Time Remembers One Time Once brings together the insight of bassist Charlie Haden and the Bill Evans-esque keys of Denny Zeitlin. Zeitlin is that rare breed of musician who holds down a stable and highly regarded day job—in his case, as a clinical professor of psychiatry—while managing to keep abreast of the jazzier side of life. Now in his early seventies, Zeitlin is still going strong in both the office and the studio. Although these lives would seem utterly separate—as a musician he goes by “Denny,” while as a professional he is known as “Dennis”—Zeitlin finds an abiding passion in both. And indeed, after the vampy, kalimba-like intro of Haden’s “Chairman Mao,” we find intimations of both in the soft thrum of its therapy. Haden makes for an ideal partner in this regard, as with each return he plays with our expectations, working his magic with a ceremonious smolder. Like its title, “Bird Food” (Coleman) scatters itself along the ground of our sonic attention and nibbles at it in thematic piles. The joining of this duo creates some the most sweeping sounds here. In the wake of such uplift, the tenderness of an old standby, “As Long As Their’s Music,” is magic to the ears. Laying down his smooth pianism over a pulpy firmament of bass, Zeitlin cradles us with paternal care into the arms of the title track. This goes down just as smoothly, like the honeyed tune that it is, and walks to the beat of its own heart. A gossamer precursor to Jasmine, “Love For Sale” is another lozenge of goodness. Haden brings his liturgical magic to the slow-moving cadenza that is his “Ellen David,” while Coltrane’s “Satellite” pairs gorgeously with another old-timer, “How High The Moon.” Luiz Eça’s “The Dolphin” also goes down easy, leaving us with nothing but a clean aftertaste from this unsung slice of ECM pie.

We all know that Haden can do no wrong, yet after listening to this out-of-print recording (though it is available digitally) it’s clear that neither can Zeitlin. A discovery to be treasured time and again.

<< Dave Holland: Life Cycle (ECM 1238)
>> Meredith Monk: Turtle Dreams (ECM 1240 NS)

Old And New Dreams: Playing (ECM 1205)

ECM 1205

Old And New Dreams

Don Cherry trumpet, piano
Dewey Redman tenor saxophone, musette
Charlie Haden bass
Ed Blackwell drums
Recorded live, June 1980, Theater am Kornmarkt, Bregenz (Austria)
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher

This fantastic set, recorded live in Austria, is the place to start for anyone wanting a glimpse into the attic of Old And New Dreams. The playing is on point, the crowd riled, and the stakes high. From that first lively jump into “Happy House,” one of three extended Ornette Coleman tunes, we are plunged into the group’s quintessential sonic parameters. Lithe syncopations from Dewey Redman relate to Ed Blackwell’s drumming like family, while the free-flowing trumpeting of Don Cherry loosens its grip on predictability for a style that is utterly devoid of pretense and ever eager to communicate. Charlie Haden’s melodious plasticity completes a formula that carries through to the last drop. Just listen to the gut-wrenching tenor solo in “New Dream,” the liquid horns and percolating toms of “Broken Shadows,” where Redman’s musette also unfurls for a fantastically CODONA-like sound, and tell me there isn’t something special going on here.

Cherry drops a groovy hit of his own with the pointillist “Mopti,” of which the infectious pianism from the composer and attuned percussion delight. Redman contributes “Rushour,” the album’s most incendiary flush. The incredible saxophonism and expansive lyric trumpeting spread their joys far and wide. The title track comes from the hand of Haden, around whose spine horns weave like a medical caduceus before being lobbed back into their familiar station like ping-pong balls at the ready.

Considering the heft of talents assembled here, the results are weightlessly executed. This shows not weakness or lack of fortitude, but the maturity everyone brings to the sonic table. This is a solid date from musicians who know the business inside and out, and then some. About as good as it gets. Reissue, anyone?

<< Egberto Gismonti: Sanfona (ECM 1203/04)
>> Gallery: s/t (ECM 1206)

Pat Metheny: 80/81 (ECM 1180/81)

Pat Metheny

Pat Metheny guitar
Charlie Haden bass
Jack DeJohnette drums
Dewey Redman tenor saxophone
Michael Brecker tenor saxophone
Recorded May 26-29, 1980 at Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

With 80/81, Pat Metheny took one step closer to his dream of working with The Prophet of Freedom (a dream he finally achieved with 1985’s Song X), and what better company than Coleman alumni Charlie Haden and Dewey Redman, both fresh off the boat of Keith Jarrett’s newly defunct American Quartet and both welcome additions to the extended Metheny family. Along with the technical mastery of reedman Mike Brecker and drummer Jack DeJohnette, plus a dash of post-bop spice, the result was this still-fresh sonic concoction. The atmospheres of the opening “Two Folk Songs” invite us with that expansive pastoralism so characteristic of Metheny. This makes Brecker’s highly trained yet raw stylings all the more marked, bringing as they do a sense of presence that explodes into a million pieces. Metheny’s benign sound catches at the threshold of perfection with every turn of phrase, allowing Brecker fiery bursts of abandon. DeJohnette throws on a log or two with his rocketing solo, while Haden wipes the slate clean with shadings of his own. Metheny shows off his unparalleled command of two-string harmonies, fading on a lightly skipping snare. This feeling of perpetual motion lingers throughout the title track. Content in sharing the revelry, Metheny relays to Redman who, though he may not fly as high, emits no less intensity in his groove. “The Bat” gives us a minor-keyed shadow of “I’ll be Home for Christmas” before diving headfirst into Coleman’s “Turnaround.” This trio setting boasts inventive melodies and a plunking solo from Haden. “Open” is, suitably enough, the freest track on the album, emboldened by trade-offs between Redman and Brecker, while “Pretty Scattered” dances more lithely with John Abercrombie-like exuberance. A ringing high from Metheny laser-etches this track into our memory. Balladry abounds in “Every Day (I Thank You),” one of his most gorgeous ever committed to disc. This is music that grins even as we grin, and shines through the darkest cloud of a Midwestern storm. Metheny ends alone with “Goin’ Ahead.” This breath-catching piece works its farewell into our hearts with every suspended note, effortlessly walking the beaten path of all those souls who have traveled before, so that those yet to be born might know where they come from, and to where they might return.

Like much of what Metheny produces, 80/81 is wide open in two ways. First in its far-reaching vision, and second it its willingness to embrace the listener. Like a dolly zoom, he enacts an illusion of simultaneous recession and approach, lit like a fuse that leads not to an explosion, but to more fuse.

<< Bengt Berger: Bitter Funeral Beer (ECM 1179)
>> Corea/Burton: In Concert, Zürich, October 28, 1979 (ECM 1182/83)

Haden/Garbarek/Gismonti: Folk Songs (ECM 1170)

ECM 1170

Folk Songs

Charlie Haden bass
Jan Garbarek saxophones
Egberto Gismonti guitars, piano
Recorded November 1979 at Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

This scintillating follow-up album to Magico is yet another fine example of ECM’s progressive comings together. Uniting multi-instrumentalist Egberto Gismonti with the instantly recognizable stylings of saxophonist Jan Garbarek and bassist Charlie Haden seems at once a stroke of genius and an inevitable configuration. A blue “Folk Song” sets the tone for all tender considerations that follow, slowly working its motions into a helix of atmospheres. Gismonti stretches out a gorgeous drawl in “Bôdas De Prata.” Within the open bowl of Garbarek’s cupped tenor, he glows like a firefly. The rhythmic acuity of “Cego Aderaldo” is enough to sustain an otherwise languid album. There is something special about the 12-string/sax combination here that recalls the label’s Solstice days and pairs beautifully with “Veien,” which gives us the album’s most reactive moments. Gismonti’s perpetuity, Garbarek’s crystalline phrasings, and Haden’s heartening geometries unify, appropriately enough, in “Equilibrista.” This cradle of rolling piano and melodic overlays falls from its bough in a melodious tumble, landing on its feet for the final word, which comes in the form of “For Turiya,” another ballad-like seesaw of piano and bass resting on the fulcrum of Garbarek’s nocturnal whispers.

Each of these precious musicians has the ability to paint the grandest pictures with the subtlest gestures. This tension of method and effect is at the heart of ECM’s ethos. In such projects, one feels producer Manfred Eicher’s conversational presence and guiding hand, both of which can only illuminate the joys of creation and the sharing thereof.

<< Jan Garbarek/Kjell Johnsen: Aftenland (ECM 1169)
>> Keith Jarrett: Nude Ants (ECM 1171/72)