ECM by the Decades: The 2010s

On May 21, 2018, WKCR DJ Andrew Castillo and I presented the last in our five-part series, “ECM by the Decades,” focusing this time on the 2010s. The episode is now available to listen by clicking the PLAY button below. You may also download the full episode by clicking here. Scroll down for a full playlist, including links to my reviews (where available) of each album:

Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin
Awase (ECM 2603)
“Modul 36”

[INTRO @ 00:13:32]

Eivind Aarset
Dream Logic (ECM 2301)
“Homage To Greene”

Dominic Miller
Silent Light (ECM 2518)

Björn Meyer
Provenance (ECM 2566)

[BREAK @ 00:34:13]

Stefano Battaglia Trio
Songways (ECM 2286)

Colin Vallon Trio
Danse (ECM 2517)

Django Bates’ Belovèd
The Study Of Touch (ECM 2534)
“Little Petherick”

[BREAK @ 00:57:48]

Sokratis Sinopoulos Quartet
Eight Winds (ECM 2407)
“In Circles”
(April 2014)

Michel Benita Ethics
River Silver (ECM 2483)
“Back From The Moon”

Anouar Brahem
Blue Maqams (ECM 2580)

[BREAK @ 01:20:42]

Jacob Young
Forever Young (ECM 2366)

Ferenc Snétberger
Titok (ECM 2468)

Jakob Bro
Streams (ECM 2499)

[BREAK @ 01:43:21]

Andrew Cyrille Quartet
The Declaration of Musical Independence (ECM 2430)

Thomas Strønen
Time Is A Blind Guide (ECM 2467)
“The Stone Carriers”

Mathias Eick
Ravensburg (ECM 2584)

[BREAK @ 02:03:10]

Aaron Parks
Find The Way (ECM 2489)

Bobo Stenson Trio
Contra la indecision (ECM 2582)

Shinya Fukumori Trio
For 2 Akis (ECM 2574)
“Mangetsu no Yube”

[BREAK @ 02:22:37]

Kristjan Randalu
Absence (ECM 2586)

Maciej Obara Quartet
Unloved (ECM 2573)

Ralph Towner / Wolfgang Muthspiel / Slava Grigoryan
Travel Guide (ECM 2310)


Elina Duni
Partir (ECM 2587)
“Amara Terra Mia”

ECM by the Decades: Final Installment Tonight

Join me and host Andrew Castillo tonight (May 21) on WKCR’s Jazz Alternatives program, from 6-9pm EST. We’re continuing where we left off, closing out our series with a selection of personal ECM catalog favorites from 2010 to the present. Click the logo below to be directed to the WKCR website, where you may stream us live by clicking the “LISTEN” icon on the top-right corner of the screen. As always, if you’re unable to tune in, we’ll be archiving the program here for future streaming and downloads.


ECM by the Decades: Fourth Installment Tonight

Join me and host Andrew Castillo yet again tonight (May 7) on WKCR’s Jazz Alternatives program, from 6-9pm EST. We’re continuing where we left off, moving on to a selection of personal ECM catalog favorites from the 2000s. Click the logo below to be directed to the WKCR website, where you may stream us live by clicking the “LISTEN” icon on the top-right corner of the screen. As always, if you’re unable to tune in, we’ll be archiving the program here for future streaming and downloads.


Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin: Awase (ECM 2603)


Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin

Nik Bärtsch piano
Sha bass clarinet, alto saxophone
Thomy Jordi bass
Kaspar Rast drums
Recorded October 2017, Studios La Buissonne, Pernes-les-Fontaines
Engineers: Gérard de Haro and Nicolas Baillard
Produced by Manfred Eicher
U.S. release date: May 4, 2018

The booklet for Awase, Swiss pianist Nik Bärtsch’s latest release with his band of Ronin, quotes French theorist Roland Barthes: “The sign is a fracture which only ever opens onto the face of another sign.” Perhaps no other statement better expresses the fractal nature of this music, for the more one zooms in on its precisions, the more one senses its freedoms expand. Joined by Sha (bass clarinet and alto saxophone), Kaspar Rast (drums) and newest recruit Thomy Jordi (bass), Bärtsch finds himself rooted in a familiar ethos while sprouting new verdure.

The album continues his “modular” approach, by which larger bodies coalesce from elemental forces. The newest of these, “Modul 60” and “Modul 59,” open and close the album with hints of a concentrated future. Where the latter emotes in liminal territory, the former is a direct link to Continuum, Bärtsch’s previous record for ECM with his Mobile project. Any nods to the past, however, are refracted through a brighter coming of age: a sound that once ran now leaps. The ritual groove of “Modul 58,” for instance, is at once what we might expect and a fresher take on group integration, a taste of perpetual motion shown in the band’s willingness to let details express themselves to the level of ecstasy. “Modul 36” reveals the deepest change; known to any longtime listener of Bärtsch, here it takes on the uniformly colored properties that would seem to extend the band’s evolutionary path. It’s a classic yet forward-thinking groove, one that feels like a childhood home renovated from the inside out. “Modul 34” is another early tune, only now making its studio debut. There’s an almost digital quality to it, nuanced by human touch.

Awase is also a departure for including a non-Bärtsch original by Sha: the enigmatically titled “A.” Gradually building an ocean out of a water droplet, its waves flow to the magnetic suggestions of an itinerant philosophical compass. Like the album as a whole, it toes the line between light and shadow with every intention of shedding its ego to both along (and by) the way.

(This article originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of The New York City Jazz Record, a full PDF of which is available here.)

Noa Fort Reviews for All About Jazz

I recently attended a performance in celebration of No World Between Us, the debut album by pianist and vocalist Noa Fort, sister of ECM recording artist Anat Fort. Noa’s songwriting is insightful and touching, and in a live setting reached new heights of expression. Click the cover to read my thoughts on the album, and the live photo below that to read my review of the CD release concert.

No World Between Us


Jazz photography

As some of my readers may be aware, I’ve been photographing semi-professionally for a few years. Only recently, however, have I begun to photograph musicians. Below is a slideshow of recent images. Hope you enjoy them.

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Ben Monder: Amorphe (ECM 2421)


Ben Monder

Ben Monder electric guitar, electric baritone guitar, Fender Bass VI
Pete Rende synthesizer
Andrew Cyrille drums
Paul Motian drums
“Oh, What a Beautiful Morning,” “Triffids,” and “Dinosaur Skies” recorded October 2010 at Sear Sound
Engineer: James A. Farber
“Tendrils,” “Tumid Cenobite,” “Gamma Crucis,” “Zythum,” and “Hematophagy” recorded December 2013 at Brooklyn Recording
Engineer: Rick Kwan
Mixing Engineer: Rick Kwan
Produced by Sun Chung
U.S. release date: October 30, 2015

For his ECM leader debut, New York guitarist Ben Monder brings his improvisational destinations to fruition with respect for every musical step in reaching them. The album’s circle is opened and closed by two solo arcs: “Tendrils” and “Dinosaur Skies.” Where the former comes out of the woodwork as if after a long and melodic hibernation, the latter is a dragon’s breath turned into music.

Constellations fill the spectrum between as Monder sings through a variety of guitars and tunings. “Gamma Crucis” and “Zythum” triangulate with Pete Rende on synthesizer and Andrew Cyrille on drums. Both pieces are geological surveys of highest order. Monder and Rende release so much likeminded stardust, it’s all they can do to clarify that they’re two nebulae working independently of time. Cyrille’s tracery is the dark matter between them, a dimension in which concrete rhythms have no gravity.

Guitarist and drummer make art as duo on “Hematophagy” and “Tumid Cenobite.” In the absence of electronics, their language feels closer to home, each his own weather front blending into collaboration. Although the landscape below them is desolate, it wavers with memories of rivers and greenery. Monder’s stirrings are like those of a creature in the leaves of Cyrille’s reforesting. With each sunrise, they dissolve dust into breathable air.

Monder Trio

Poignantly, late drummer Paul Motian joins Monder for two further duets. First is a starlit take on the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.” It’s beautiful indeed to hear Motian’s brushes, pulled as if from beyond some mortal curtain, springing to vibrant life of their own impulse. There’s something fully alive about this music—not only because of the tune, but also because of the way it rolls off the musicians’ proverbial tongues like a psalm. Recognition is not a precondition for enjoyment, however, as Monder’s ambience forges new relationships using familiar actors. His searing explosions make steam of ocean water, leaving lost cities exposed to sunlight for the first time in eons. Then there is “Triffids,” a spontaneous blush of tenderness that eludes capture by microphone and digitization. It is, rather, a force that knows us before we may consciously seek it out in the listening. Motian’s feel for internal rhythm is profound.


Monder navigates the paths before him with confidence because he defines them as he goes along. Leaving behind uncertainty, he uses gentility as fuel for a strong spirit. It’s perhaps no coincidence that the track titles recall the histrionic wordplay of the Cocteau Twins, for with likeminded boldness he does away with consensus articulations in favor of the emotional resonances beneath.