Florian Weber: Lucent Waters (ECM 2593)

Lucent Waters

Florian Weber
Lucent Waters

Ralph Alessi trumpet
Florian Weber piano
Linda May Han Oh double bass
Nasheet Waits drums
Recorded September 2017, Studios La Buissonne, Pernes-les-Fontaines
Engineer: Gérard de Haro
Mastering: Nicolas Baillard
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Release date: November 2, 2018

German pianist Florian Weber follows 2016’s Alba in the company of a fresh quartet. Trumpeter Ralph Alessi, with whom Weber has the longest association of those gathered, is a free and democratic spirit. Bassist Linda May Han Oh, here making her ECM debut, is a deeply grounded soul. And drummer Nasheet Waits, whom Weber had already admired and was suggested by producer Manfred Eicher, is a detailer of the highest order. Says Weber of the group: “It’s the first time I’ve had a band where what particularly interests me is the difference between the players and their approaches to improvising.” But while they do indeed have distinct voices, the music they play and its sequencing embody a masterstroke of interlocking associations.

Where most bands might wish to start off with a steel-toed shoe, “Brilliant Waters” finds the group improvising their way barefoot into frame, with only the tune’s title as suggestion. Weber’s pianism is a symphony of tactile blending, its flowering of purpose driven by volition. “Melody Of A Waterfall” opens an equally vulnerable door. Inspired by traditional Japanese drumming, it’s a gorgeous vehicle not only for Waits but also for Oh, who reveals a muscular lyricism, all while Weber cascades into the deeper waters of “From Cousteau’s Point Of View.” Inspired by the perspectives afforded him through oceanic diving, it at last introduces Alessi to the mix. Its rhythmic overlay is gorgeous and satisfying, the trumpeter’s tonal control gravity-defying, and the piano’s melodic currents enchanting.

“Honestlee” is a tribute to Lee Konitz, in whose venerable presence Weber has worked alongside Oh, and whose inspirations are felt as much in the spirit as in the song. Song being the operative word, as Weber hums his way through nearly every turn of this interpretive maze. His interactions with the bassist are symbiotic, resulting in an experience of crystalline proportions. Oh makes an even bigger emotional withdrawal from the creative bank of “Butterfly Effect,” across which Alessi marks his trail with fluid brushwork. Waits exposes a dramatic undercurrent before Weber and Oh weave the spotlight into their own blanket of revelation. To that tune’s spatial reality “Time Horizon” adds temporal fantasy in a trio highlight that gives the rhythm section all the fuel it needs to make its engine purr. In light of its unfolding, “Fragile Cocoon” speaks with the urgency of infancy yet in a language of near-stillness before the first wing, then the second, emerges into a dancing universe and leaves the delicate “Schimmelreiter” to mark our exit with breadcrumbs and flower petals—not so that we might find our way back but so that we might never forget where we’re going. Thus the album redraws its own circle, inviting us to link our own in a hieroglyphics of gratitude.