Marcin Wasilewski Trio/Joe Lovano: Arctic Riff (ECM 2678)

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Marcin Wasilewski Trio
Joe Lovano
Arctic Riff

Joe Lovano tenor saxophone
Marcin Wasilewski piano
Slawomir Kurkiewicz double bass
Michal Miskiewicz drums
Recorded August 2019, Studios La Buissonne, Pernes-les-Fontaines
Engineer: Gérard de Haro
Mastering: Nicolas Baillard
Cover photo: Thomas Wunsch
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Release date: June 26, 2020

Too much time, it seems, has passed since pianist Marcin Wasilewski and his trio with bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz and drummer Michal Miskiewicz graced the studio for our privileged scrutiny, and as soon as “Glimmer Of Hope” tickles the ear drum, we are reuniting with old friends. A glimmer is exactly what we encounter in Wasilewski’s pianism, which opens this tender vision with a play of light and shadow such as only he can render. In turning these movements into song, he opens a new portal through which to step on our way toward musical discovery. But then a new companion in Joe Lovano joins the shoulder-link of arms to block any who would even dream of passing across the double line of expectation. And so we trail behind, absorbing the language of their traversal. Three more selections by the bandleader, including the flowy sojourning of “Fading Sorrow” (a yielding stage for Kurkiewicz’s soloing) and the sparkler-to-fireworks groove of “L’Amour Fou,” along with Lovano’s “On The Other Side,” complete the in-group compositional picture. The latter tune unfurls a veritable tapestry from the tenorist’s bell and pictures the synergy of ears and fingers required to pull off this collaboration. Carla Bley’s “Vashkar” gets two treatments thereby. In keeping with its ever-deepening roots, and nourished by five decades of interpretation, the quartet taps into its historical embeddedness.

If these are the album’s bricks, then its mortar is mixed in freely improvised material. The nine-minute “Cadenza” is the most cohesive of the bunch, metaphysically speaking. Its balance of gentility and strength is downright beautiful, as is the linear unfolding of “Arco.” Where one moment might breed shimmering near-stillness and the next a fibrillation of darkness, neither mood dominates. Instead, the musicians follow where they are led without struggle. One hears it just as vividly in the nocturnal slink of “Stray Cat Walk” as in the restless leg syndrome of “A Glimpse.”

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What really distinguishes this record, however, is the apparent gap between the trio’s interlocking poetry and Lovano’s hard-won prose. What at first may seem to be a disjunction actually opens up a space that can only be filled by the listener. By inserting ourselves into the equation, the proof becomes clear: our presence has been desired from inception to execution, our variable the final piece. And with that completion, we emerge on the other side of the equals side having carried the one of experience.

Enrico Rava/Joe Lovano: Roma (ECM 2654)

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Enrico Rava
Joe Lovano
Roma

Enrico Rava flugelhorn
Joe Lovano tenor saxophone, tarogato
Giovanni Guidi piano
Dezron Douglas double bass
Gerald Cleaver drums
Concert recording, November 10, 2018
Sala Sinopoli, Auditorium Parco della Musica, Rome
Engineer: Giampiero Armino
Editing: Manfred Eicher and Stefano Amerio (engineer)
Album produced by Manfred Eicher
Release date: September 6, 2019

Recorded at Rome’s Auditorium Parco della Musica during a pop-up tour in November 2018, this album preserves a formidable group led by Italian trumpeter Enrico Rava (heard on flugelhorn throughout) and American saxophonist Joe Lovano. Alongside pianist Gianni Guidi, bassist Dezron Douglas, and drummer Gerald Cleaver, they take us through a set of originals, classics, and original classics in the making.

Rava opens the set with two tunes of his own. The delicate swing of “Interiors” unfurls a scenic backdrop as the frontmen stretch firmament over fundament. It’s incredible to hear just how organically Rava and Lovano—each a master in his own right—avoid stepping on each other’s toes. The moment they occupy the same space, theirs feels like an inevitable collaboration. Like two shooting stars crossing in the night, they seem to be a once-in-a-generation coincidence, yet in the process yield an even brighter star that careens beyond the asteroid belt of expectation. Neither is foreign to the healing power of poetry. “Secrets” elicits a more itinerant sound with Rava as primary storyteller. Despite their titles, this and the opener are reveal their love of creation like a morning glory drenched in the rising sun. Cleaver reaps a gorgeous harvest of cymbals, adding splashes of color amid the monochrome, and through those actions works up a lather of protection against the march of time. Lovano, for his part, shows his ability to immerse himself in the ever-evolving soul of things.

“Fort Worth” initiates a Lovano-penned sequence with upbeat inflections, by which memories of the past and predictions of the future are adhered. Lovano is the winding spirit of the rhythm section’s uncanny swing. When he gives the floor to Rava, the warmth of the venue feels more palpable than ever. Guidi’s solo is particularly superb, unpacking two gifts for each one wrapped, and holds light in its hands. “Divine Timing” is a more free-wheeling vehicle for Cleaver, who primes the canvas for some unbridled color schemes. Douglas, meanwhile, understands the need to give as much space as he occupies.

The quintet ends with a powerful triptych, kicking off with Lovano’s “Drum Song,” which takes an anciently leaning bass solo as its seed and finds the composer on tarogato before morphing into John Coltrane’s “Spiritual,” of which Rava is the shining galaxy. All of this funnels into the dream of Guidi alone playing “Over The Rainbow” a nod to the cosmos to which we must all one day return.

Joe Lovano: Trio Tapestry (ECM 2615)

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Joe Lovano
Trio Tapestry

Joe Lovano tenor saxophone, tarogato, gongs
Marilyn Crispell piano
Carmen Castaldi drums, percussion
Recorded March 2018 at Sear Sound, New York
Engineer: Chris Allen
Mixing: July 2018 at Studios La Buissonne by Gérard de Haro (engineer), Manfred Eicher, and Joe Lovano
Mastering: Nicolas Baillard
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Release date: January 25, 2019

After decades of appearing on ECM as sideman, Joe Lovano makes his leader debut for the label. Bearing the gift of 11 original compositions built around 12-tone processes, the saxophonist celebrates life and creativity with a new trio, welcoming pianist Marilyn Crispell and drummer Carmen Castaldi into New York’s Sear Sound studio. The result is one of the most intimate jazz experiences to come out from the label in years.

The gongs on “One Time In” process as if grieving for silence, itself so rare a commodity in today’s world that it’s all we can do to seek out a musical experience as enmeshed in stillness as this. The effect is such that when the piano rains down on “Seeds Of Change,” we’ve already become accustomed to melody as a reflection of what quivers between the notes. So much of what follows reminds us that, in art, form and function need not ever be the same. For if the breathy poetry of “Sparkle Lights” and “Tarrassa” are indicative of something tangible, they’re equally aligned to something diffuse.

At times, as in “Piano/Drum Episode” and “Gong Episode,” gestures are as literal as can be, and yet also ineffable. At others, as in “Mystic,” the feeling is so mysterious as to be undeniably immediate. The latter tune features Lovano on the Hungarian tarogato, a mournful woodwind that blows aside the curtains of the future like gusts from the past. Crispell and Castaldi are in finest form in “Rare Beauty” and “Spirit Lake,” either of which might aptly describe the mood of what we’re hearing. The pianist understands that every note has the potential to become a sutra, while the drummer fills the air with diacritical markings. How glorious, then, that all of this should culminate in “The Smiling Dog,” a freely explosive romp through streets paved in grainy night.

Trio Tapestry is the essence of atmosphere as substance and the soundtrack of things unseen, singing in honor of those without songs.