Eberhard Weber: Orchestra (ECM 1374)

 

Eberhard Weber
Orchestra

Eberhard Weber bass, percussion, keyboards
Herbert Joos fluegelhorn
Anton Jillich fluegelhorn
Rudolf Diebetsberger French horn
Thomas Hauschild French horn
Wolfgang Czelustra trombone
Andreas Richter trombone
Winfried Rapp bass trombone
Franz Stagl tuba
Recorded May/August 1988 at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer: Carlos Albrecht
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Despite an overt lack of the very instruments implied by the title of this mysterious effort from bassist Eberhard Weber, it is far from misleading, for the orchestra is in our minds, and in Weber’s heart as he emotes with the fullness of his instrument. The album divides itself between two distinct halves. The first of these hones emphasis on the solo. Weber is the foreground, flexing like the backbone of a creature whose anatomy is otherwise invisible. After the fluttering opening statement of “Seven Movements,” the palette warms into a lush ostinato, which only seems to accompany itself as it coils its golden threads into a brass-gilded frame. Some percussive death throes provide rare drama. “Broken Silence” features a delicate arco bass soaring low above its droning shadow toward the horizons of “Before Dawn.” This, a gorgeous spell working its lilting magic like a funhouse mirror, except that here we find not laughter or distortion, but an expansion of our sonic worldview. Weber jazzes things up for “Just A Moment,” riding a slingshot into “Air,” itself but a pliant reed in a pond, a cattail waiting to cast its children into the wind.

“Two Early To Leave” blends a congregation of brass into tremulous strings, thereby evoking the sweeps of Weber’s earlier work and inaugurating us into the breathtaking second half. We continue with “One Summer’s Evening,” floating sinuous lines along a current of synthesizer. The tender solo of “Daydream” winds its embrace against a sunny drone, while the darker emotional urgency of “Trio” drops itself into a deep sleep, where it dreams of the “Epilogue,” a forlorn path tread by pizzicato footsteps until it is flattened and no longer kicks up dust.

Orchestra is Weber at his purest. A lovely exposition of his talents, technical and melodic alike. Certainly not the one you’ll want to start with, but by no means a shabby place to spend the night before continuing on your journey.

Eberhard Weber: Chorus (ECM 1288)

 

Eberhard Weber
Chorus

Eberhard Weber bass, synthesizer
Jan Garbarek soprano and tenor saxophones
Ralf Hübner drums
Recorded September 1984 at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher

One might easily switch the title of Eberhard Weber’s Chorus with that of Fluid Rustle and none would be the wiser. Where the latter brims with voices and color, this relatively monochromatic effort is more like a shift of clothing in the shadows. Until this point, Weber’s ECM projects had been inclined toward epic statements. These ranged from overwhelmingly sun-drenched reveries (The Following Morning) to moonlit fields of introspection (Later That Evening). With the release of Chorus, however, Weber reached a new level of intimacy. Joined only by Jan Garbarek on soprano and tenor saxophones and Ralf Hübner (one of Germany’s most important jazz drummers), Weber pares his sonic brush for a new kind of script.

Over the course of seven unnamed parts, we find all the staples of the Weber experience. The, yes, fluid electro-bass and synth drone of Part I will be familiar to the Weber enthusiast, only here we encounter something quite different. Where before these territories engulfed us, now they are painted inside us. Similarly, every note from Weber’s bass in Part II is a ripple that finds only slight resistance from our inner walls as it expands toward the oncoming night, but ever with the dawn in mind. Garbarek floats his gorgeous lines one drop at a time, melting through the doublings of Parts III and IV and on to the arco strains of Part V. This scribbled palette cleanser slides into the pulsing depths of Part VI. Here the band achieves something special, making for the suite’s most powerful nodes of emotion. The final part eases us into a lovely thread of electric piano that makes this one of Weber’s most perfect constructions and beyond reason enough to own the album.

As I revisit Chorus for this review, the police sirens loudening and fading outside my window remind me of the transformative power of its music, which makes of those sirens a bird of light screaming across the canvas of the sky. Like the fade on which it ends, it leaves its body behind—a kite cut from its string which, instead of falling, continues floating ever higher until it burns quietly in the sun.

Eberhard Weber: Later That Evening (ECM 1231)

ECM 1231

Eberhard Weber
Later That Evening

Eberhard Weber bass
Paul McCandless soprano saxophone, oboe, English horn, bass clarinet
Bill Frisell guitar
Lyle Mays piano
Michael DiPasqua drums, percussion
Recorded March 1982 at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher

If you’ve ever stared at a body of water and been entranced by the play of reflections on its surface, then your ears will appreciate the sonic equivalent thereof on Eberhard Weber’s Later That Evening. Though one misses on this date the unmistakable sweep of Rainer Brüninghaus’s keys, in his place we get the likeminded sensitivity of Lyle Mays alongside the various reeds of Paul McCandless and interstellar meows of Bill Frisell. Completing this sonic package are Michael DiPasqua on drums and of course Weber himself in a sweep of a different kind on his leading electro-bass. Over the course of four Weber originals, averaging nearly 11 minutes each, this never-repeated ensemble lays down some of his farthest-reaching tracks ever committed to disc.

Mays scrims his shaw within the first minute of “Maurizius,” one of two shorter extensions in the album’s liquid flow. Riding a foamy wave of cymbals and English horn, Frisell’s blurry curls find solace in the darkening sky, which pushes the sun down silently behind the middle horizon all the way to the title track, where Weber’s bass winds into its fleshiest expressions. Yet it is in that middle horizon where this set’s true richness is disclosed. The ghostly voices that open “Death In The Carwash” seem to approximate footsteps, each traced by soprano saxophone. Weber’s gorgeousness stretches this elastic band to a state of near-snap as Frisell and Mays weave their growing kinship into the trampoline from which Mays springs, arms spread. Back on the ground, “Often In The Open” finds piano and drums in a darkly grained dialogue. The drumming picks up quietly, suddenly, stringing soprano by spidery pulls from guitar, leaving us in a circular theme from McCandless, who finishes alone.

One can always expect fluidity from Weber, and the music on Later That Evening is no exception. It cages the air like waterspouts in the distance, kept at bay from their potential destruction through a screen of remembrance.

<< Don Cherry/Ed Blackwell: El Corazón (ECM 1230)
>> Chick Corea: Trio Music (ECM 1232/33)

Eberhard Weber: Fluid Rustle (ECM 1137)

ECM 1137

Eberhard Weber
Fluid Rustle

Eberhard Weber bass, tarang
Bonnie Herman voice
Norma Winstone voice
Gary Burton vibraharp, marimba
Bill Frisell guitar, balalaika
Recorded January 1979 at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher

As the wind freshened from the south, the red and yellow beech leaves rasped together with a brittle sound, harsher than the fluid rustle of earlier days. It was a time of quiet departures, of the sifting away of all that was not staunch against winter.
–Richard Adams, Watership Down

Although with Fluid Rustle, Eberhard Weber continued to draw upon the Watership Down references that cast 1977’s Silent Feet into such lovely relief, I hesitate to call it program music. Neither are the titles mere frames; they are also the open windows within those frames. Like the rabbits in Adams’s novel, each instrument in “Quiet Departures” is its own vivid personality in a vast warren of possibilities. Such strong metaphorical ties are there to be unraveled, one fiber at a time, by every strike of Gary Burton’s vibes. The introduction of Norma Winstone (in her first non-Azimuth ECM appearance) and Bonnie Herman represents an exciting tectonic shift in Weber’s geology, urging us through an atmospheric tunnel. At its end: a brightly lit solo from Burton, swaying comfortably in Weber’s hammock. This piece beguiles like déjà vu over a buoyant electric guitar (courtesy of Bill Frisell), voices returning on the syllable “Na” for a Tehillim-like consistency. Further textural detail is provided by the twang of the tarang, an Indian banjo played by Weber himself. As Burton switches to marimba, we find ourselves between two electric guitars, throwing sonic confetti from either side, before Weber plunges us into the depths of the title track and its ecstatic dreaming. “A Pale Smile” is a hallucinatory wash of guitars and vibes that works its magic with a Laurie Anderson feel. Weber also has a quiet, heartfelt solo here. “Visible Thoughts” carries us out on a bowed bass laced with percussive breathing and whispers. Painting syncopations with a broader brush, the group fades in an ever-tightening braid of wordless breathing until we are left dry.

The album’s title would seem to characterize the sound and effect of Eberhard Weber’s music in one fell swoop. His presence is felt here more melodically than instrumentally, as he chooses just the right moments to foreground his unfettered sound. And while the absence of keyboardist Rainer Brüninghaus marks a noticeable change in density, it also allows voices that have always been there to emerge from the woodwork and shine.

<< Egberto Gismonti: Solo (ECM 1136)
>> Paul Motian Trio: Le Voyage (ECM 1138)

The Gary Burton Quartet with Eberhard Weber: Passengers (ECM 1092)

ECM 1092

The Gary Burton Quartet with Eberhard Weber
Passengers

Gary Burton vibraharp
Pat Metheny guitar
Steve Swallow bass guitar
Dan Gottlieb drums
Eberhard Weber bass
Recorded November 1976 at Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Gary Burton’s Passengers has it all: its frontman’s incomparable mallets, Dan Gottlieb keeping the beat, the unmistakable bass of Eberhard Weber paired with the equally unique stylings of Steve Swallow, the fluid fingers of guitarist Pat Metheny (who would soon go on to front his own super group with Weber and Gottlieb), and the all-important bow of ECM’s attentive production. Not enough to whet your appetite? All the more reason to buy it.

Chick Corea’s “Sea Journey” opens with the floating exuberance that Burton carries off like no other. Weber pulls out all the stops here, proving to be perfect complement to Burton’s sound. A stunning piece of work with a heightened groove-oriented trajectory. This is followed by three Metheny compositions. In the subtle ballad “Nacada,” vibes rest on a gentle surface tension of flowing bass, guitar, and brushed drums. “The Whopper” locks into more upbeat strides. Weber’s bass is as bright and attractive as it gets, while Metheny’s solo dances on a pinhead. Listeners will recognize “B & G (Midwestern Nights Dream)” from his seminal Bright Size Life, its fractured rhythms maintained beautifully here. The quiet background supports a glowing solo from Weber, not to mention another from Metheny himself. “Yellow Fields” (Weber) is another exuberant number, and features the album’s most incredible vibe work. The bittersweet farewell of Swallow’s “Claude And Betty” contorts its hands in shadow puppets, backlit as if by a sad and lonesome dream.

Mindfully recorded and expertly executed, the melodies of Passengers come alive with unpretentious joy. The synthesis of players forms a palette in the truest sense, its colors already artfully arranged before they are ever mixed and applied to canvas. An essential addition to any Burton library, and a must-have for any Weber fan looking to complement his brooding, handsome meditations with something more uplifting.

<< Keith Jarrett: Staircase (ECM 1090/91)
>> Jan Garbarek: Dis (ECM 1093)

Ralph Towner’s Solstice: Sound And Shadows (ECM 1095)

ECM 1095

Ralph Towner’s Solstice
Sound and Shadows

Ralph Towner 12-string and classical guitars, piano, French horn
Jan Garbarek soprano and tenor saxophones, flute
Eberhard Weber bass, cello
Jon Christensen drums
Recorded February 1977 at Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

If Ralph Towner’s classic Solstice was an overland journey, then Sound And Shadows is a subterranean dream. Featuring the same lineup as its predecessor—Jan Garbarek on saxophones, Eberhard Weber on bass and cello, Jon Christensen on drums, and Towner himself behind an arsenal of instruments—the results are perhaps not as focused. Then again, they don’t need to be.

Amid the spacious 12-string considerations of “Distant Hills,” we cannot help but feel a rich and complex topography curling into slumber above our heads. Weber’s electronic touches here deepen what is already clothed in darkness. The tighter “Balance Beam” is, like its titular object, steady and reassuring yet something to which one must pay respect if one is to navigate it successfully. Garbarek’s sopranic accents teeter across it, bringing with them the idea of light where there can be none. “Along The Way” is a collection of invisible snapshots animated by the life force of the musical gesture. Towner reprises his deft pianism in “Arion.” Caressed by the fluid unity of Christensen and Weber, he unhinges unspoken memories into the soil. “Song Of The Shadows” ends the album in a blend of classical guitar and flute over receding strings.

Along with Garbarek’s open splendor and admirable restraint, Weber’s snake-like pedal points comprise the ideal complement to Towner’s pinpoint metallic precision. Christensen’s cymbal work glistens as ever, proving that rhythm can be just as effective in a whisper. This is an album of sensations without images, one that reminds us that in order to have light, we must have umbrage, and this it brings in great quantity.

<< Steve Kuhn and Ecstasy: Motility (ECM 1094)
>> Collin Walcott: Grazing Dreams (ECM 1096)

Eberhard Weber: Colours (ECM 2133-35)

ECM 2133-35

Eberhard Weber
Colours

Eberhard Weber bass
Charlie Mariano soprano saxophone, shenai, nagaswaram, flutes
Rainer Brüninghaus keyboards, piano, synthesizer
Jon Christensen drums
John Marshall drums, percussion

“I would not be you, El-ahrairah. For Frith has given the fox and the weasel cunning hearts and sharp teeth, and to the cat has given silent feet and eyes that see in the dark, and they are gone awry from Frith’s place to kill and devour all that belongs to El-ahrairah.”
–Richard Adams, Watership Down

For six years, Eberhard Weber’s Colours enthralled the European tour circuit. A unique entry into the growing number of fusion outfits of the seventies, Weber charted a distinctly introspective path into jazz’s most unanswerable questions. The ensemble’s inimitable blend of improvisational and chamber music aesthetics was a perfect fit for ECM, not so much filling a gap as defining one. By the time he had recorded for the label, Weber had already honed a most distinctive skill, brought to its worthiest fruition on his custom electrobass, and was even present in Wolfgang Dauner’s much-neglected Output. Without a doubt, Colours created some of the label’s most mellifluous music. The sound is unmistakable, coiling like a snake around some of the most gorgeous atmospheres to grace your ears.

ECM 1066

Yellow Fields (ECM 1066)

Recorded September, 1975 at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher

With “Touch” we are immediately privy to a groove-oriented game between piano and bass. The lush, open sound is heightened by the presence of synth strings, prefiguring Weber’s later orchestral collaborations. Charlie Mariano’s soprano floats with positive energy and unbounded enthusiasm as the strings morph into trembling sirens. Jon Christensen adds backbone to otherwise invertebrate music. Weber is subdued in this first track, leaving Mariano to take the lead with a soulful stride toward a quick fadeout, leaving us wanting more of what could have been.

“Sand-Glass” begins with water droplets and the occasional artfully placed rim shot. High notes on bass provide a constellatory framework. Within these borders, seemingly drawn but only imagined, Mariano solos like a comet, his sentiment flaring against a limpid night. Mariano flaps his wings around the fuselage of Weber’s bass line before being rocked to sleep in an electric piano cradle. Inspirations grow more pronounced as Mariano picks up the shenai, a quadruple-reed North Indian oboe that tunnels into the brain like a shawm. We ride this wave until the drums pick us up and drop us back into a shattered world of aftershocks and quieting energy.

The title track is an auditory hermit. With the theme quickly dispensed with, improvisation turns joyful fancy into gorgeous abandon. All the while, discipline reigns as abstractions build into a more melodic whole in which the sound and the message are one and the same. Weber takes a more supportive tack, allowing Brüninghaus a cosmic solo on electric piano. Statements conveyed and time regained, the band wraps up with a fleeting thematic revival amid an interlacing of rhythms and supportive flourishes.

Lastly, we merge onto the “Left Lane,” which opens with a pensive bass, soon joined by electric piano. Christensen defibrillates, turning this slow drive into a cruise. The piano sings in its higher regions before trickling down like rain on a window. Weber returns to spark a new groove, moving from elegiac to jazzy in a flash. A seemingly tame sax solo quickly turns dramatic, opening our hearts to a visceral farewell.

<< Keith Jarrett: The Köln Concert (ECM 1064/65)
>> Terje Rypdal: Odyssey (ECM 1067/68)

… . …

ECM 1107

Silent Feet (ECM 1107)

Recorded November 1977 at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher

“Seriously Deep” throws a light blanket of tender drones and electric piano, quilted with gorgeous solos on soprano sax and bass. Steady rhythms (hereon provided by ex-Soft Machine drummer John Marshall) turn something otherwise mournful into life-affirming joy. The title is not a pretentious statement of the music’s emotional cache, but rather a description of its physical path as it digs toward the center of the earth. The second, and title, track of the album’s modest three is an ironic one, requiring active hands to evoke silent feet. The helix that is Weber and Brüninghaus spirals in place as cymbals connect like base pairs within, thus leading to one of the latter’s most captivating pianistic passages. It is the kind of balanced exuberance that characterizes Pat Metheny at his most potent stretches of imagination. Stellar breath control from Mariano plays beautifully off Weber’s every move, making for one of the finest cuts in the collection. We end nocturnally, watching with “Eyes That Can See In The Dark.” A smattering of percussion sets off a wooden flute in a floating auditory reverie. While one might think that an electric bass would upset this delicate atmosphere, Weber is one of the few who can pull it off with such fluid precision. From this pool arises a specter of winds, blown like gusts of air from pursed lips across outstretched hands. Again, Mariano turns out some incredible soloing to finish.

Those who, like me, grew up reading Watership Down will doubly appreciate the occasional references Weber draws from the classic novel. “Silent Feet” and “Eyes That Can See In The Dark” both refer to a central creation myth among the story’s protagonists, a herd of rabbits fleeing in exodus from the warren they once called home. Storytelling becomes a central diversion in these hard times, and the origins narrative is a favorite: At a council of the animals, Frith the creator and sun god gives each its own ability to forever pursue the wily and celeritous rabbit. To the cat, he gives Weber’s cited traits, all the better to seek out its foe under cover of night. Respectfully, Weber takes a more romantic view of the hunt and allows us into the animal mind without malice.

<< Art Lande and Rubisa Patrol: Desert Marauders (ECM 1106)
>> Paul Motian Trio: Dance (ECM 1108)

… . …

ECM 1186

Little Movements (ECM 1186)

Recorded July 1980 at Studio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher

The vast drone of “The Last Stage Of A Long Journey” cuts a thick line below the Steve Kuhn-esque intro. Like the silent monolith of 2001: A Space Odyssey, it mystifies as it enlightens. Saxophonic clusters punctuate a deep recurring thrum. Brüninghaus introduces a plaintive ostinato behind Weber’s crisp solo over brushed drums. Every gesture therein lifts us into cloudier airspace. “Bali” gives us more drone, until Marshall and Weber lock us into a solid trek to outlying territories. Like a train through the mountains that suddenly part to reveal a lively village, it shows passengers an idyllic vision of life on the margins. The piano keeps us moving forward, however, so that we only get a glimpse. Weber provides the coal, while Mariano lights a fire to feed it. A beautiful arpeggiator opens the door on a transcendent detour before bringing us back on track. The energy and motivic clarity remind one instantly of Steve Reich’s Tehillim. Next, Colours weaves “A Dark Spell” over us. Over a distant cascade of piano, bass and sax congregate in thematic clusters. Mariano outdoes himself, performing back flips in the sky as our speed increases in the last stretch. Engaging harmonies between bass and sax offer an incredible display of dynamic control that recedes like a classical riff. The title track begins with a repeated motif on piano as random sounds—accordion, gongs, and breaking glass—populate the background. From this, we get a thematic highlighting by Mariano against Weber’s delightful counterpart. The smooth and easy ending sweeps up any remaining debris with every repetition. “‘No Trees?’ He Said” is a straightforward track that appears smooth from every angle. From its tight rhythm to its reed doublings, this is simply stunning music. There is nothing little about these movements.

Though palpable in every amplified note, Weber’s legacy is about more than just assembling a handful of incredibly talented beads and threading them with smooth production. “Telepathic” is hardly the word to describe the sound of Colours, but it steers us in the right direction. The music in this set remains untouched, a sign of its far-reaching clarity of purpose. It is chaos theory epitomized in sound: every note goes where it must, never to be repeated. Weber’s music not only soars, it transcends the atmosphere. I like to think that, somewhere, an extra-terrestrial is glowing with delight at these sounds, pulsing through space-time with the energy of all creation.

<< Miroslav Vitous Group: s/t (ECM 1185)
>> Rainer Brüninghaus: Freigeweht (ECM 1187)

Pat Metheny: Watercolors (ECM 1097)

1097 X

Pat Metheny
Watercolors

Pat Metheny guitars
Lyle Mays piano
Eberhard Weber bass
Dan Gottlieb drums
Recorded February 1977 at Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

From the opening strains of Pat Metheny’s second album, we immediately know that we have a calming yet powerful journey ahead of us. The present company—among which keyboardist Lyle Mays, a Pet Metheny Group fixture, makes his first appearance—renders his characteristic combination of form and style into an instinctive wash of comfort. Mays’s pianism proves the perfect complement to the guitarist’s untainted sound. Just listen to the way he buoys the music in the opening title track, and his fluent solo in “River Quay,” and you will hardly be able to imagine the music without him. We get a lingering look at Metheny’s own abilities in “Icefire,” in which he solos on a cleverly tuned 12-string that lobs between solid chords and higher callings. Midway through, the music melts into its second titular half, flowering in a cluster of Ralph Towner-esque harmonics. “Oasis” introduces the harp guitar, a sympathetically strung instrument that shines in Metheny’s hands like the charango in Gustavo Santaolalla’s. A mournful electric sings at its center, ever shielded by an unrequited embrace of acoustics. Varied rhythms and bold chord changes animate its otherwise stagnant beauty. After these quiet submersions, we come up into air, and into light, with the beautiful “Lakes,” which positively glows with quiet ecstasies. Again, Mays broadens the edges to new waterlines, cresting like a wave that never crashes upon its thematic shores. A two-part suite proves a complex call and response with the self before the 10-minute “Sea Song” reprises the harp guitar for its swan song. The music here is beyond aquatic, and could easily have seeded a Ketil Bjørnstad project. Eberhard Weber’s smooth bass introduces the morning’s regular activities with the first rays of sunrise in countless awakening eyes, before rolling out once again, drawn back into the depths like the tide that gives them life.

Metheny’s precision dives and soars, a most selfless bird, his fingers running together like the colors of the album’s title. His supporting crew is in tune at every moment (and one mustn’t fail to praise Dan Gottlieb’s drumming in this regard), protecting every melody with passionate detail. This is perfect music for travel, for the music travels itself. It’s a plane ride above a shimmering landscape, a hang-glide over open valleys, a dive into crystal waters—and yet, our feet never leave the ground. One might call it otherworldly, were it not so firmly rooted in the earth in all its glory. Pure magic from start to finish.

<< Collin Walcott: Grazing Dreams (ECM 1096)
>> Julian Priester and Marine Intrusion: Polarization (ECM 1098)

Michael Naura: Vanessa (ECM 1053)

ECM 1053

Michael Naura
Vanessa

Michael Naura piano
Wolfgang Schlüter vibraphone, marimba, percussion
Eberhard Weber bass
Joe Nay drums
Klaus Thunemann bassoon
Recorded September 1974 at Windrose Studios, Hamburg
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Michael Naura

Lithuanian-born Michael Naura is a German pianist, editor, and journalist. Capitalizing on a range of influences, from George Shearing to Horace Silver, his successful self-titled quintet LP of 1963 made him a household name in hard bop. If the benefit concerts arranged after his being diagnosed with polyserositis the following year are any indication, his brief absence caught many in its ripples. Central to Naura’s cadre in his formative years as recording artist was vibraphonist Wolfgang Schlüter, whose presence is keenly felt throughout Vanessa, his first and only album for ECM proper (he did release another, Country Children, as part of the label’s short-lived SP series). Even though last year saw Naura’s efforts recognized with a WDR Jazz Prize lifetime achievement award, this album remains etched in vinyl.

Naura’s set of six opens its eyes in the electric piano and marimba strains of “Salvatore.” The unmistakable electrobass of Eberhard Weber provides just enough ground for Klaus Thunemann’s stellar bassoon improvisations. This gorgeous opener sounds more like John Zorn’s Electric Masada on sleeping pills than anything else. The energy peters out over time and seems to trip on its own intentions, opening up a subtle improvisatory space in the process. From these murky depths arises the track’s thematic beginnings, passionately recapitulated with some superbly realized drumming from Joe Nay, amid a flanged wash of familiarity. “Hills” bustles like lunch hour in Burtonville, though it’s Weber’s nimble fingers that make it the album’s highlight. The next tune lumbers playfully like its titular “Baboon,” all the while emoting an intrinsic self-assurance. Thunemann adopts a vocal quality that is anything but primitive in a three-minute aside that’s sure to bring a smile to your prehensile lips. The title cut reaffirms Schlüter’s reign, billowing through the night like a curtain at an open window, where once wavered the silhouette of a love no longer here, and at which now stands the one left behind. Moments of synchronicity hint at a fleeting union shared under cover of neon and subterranean steam. The serrated contours of “Listen To Me” contrast alluringly with its straight-edged neighbors. Vibes thread the whole, culminating in a sustain-pedaled echo. Ultimately, the bassoon abstractions and soloing of the elegant “Black Pigeon” prove Thunemann to be the star performer of an altogether commendable group of musicians.

A rare video of the group from 1974:

The only downside to the album is its sometimes weak recording mix. One can almost feel the marimba solo in “Salvatore,” for example, being tweaked into the foreground (compare this with the more equitably balanced “Listen To Me”). Should a reissue ever be in the works, as I hope it will be, a remastering will also be in order. Nonetheless, a keeper if you can track down one of these hot pink, fishnet sleeves.

<< Steve Kuhn: Trance (ECM 1052)
>> Richard Beirach: Eon (ECM 1054)