Jon Christensen: Selected Recordings (:rarum 20)


Jon Christensen
Selected Recordings
Release date: January 26, 2004

It is through a lingering veil of mourning that I regard this final :rarum compilation, bearing dedication to Jon Christensen. As of this writing, the seemingly omnipresent Norwegian drummer, backbone of more ECM sessions than I can count, passed away only three months ago. Thankfully, he left a literal lifetime’s worth of material to revisit, some of the best of which is included here. Once again, we are immersed in the era-defining sound of 1975’s Solstice. Having heard its opening “Oceanus” on preceding compilations, encouraged to focus on guitarist Ralph Towner and saxophonist Jan Garbarek, we are now reminded of how much of its expansiveness was due to Christensen’s drumming. From that same album we are also treated to “Piscean Dance,” a funkier duet with Towner on 12-string that showcases his ability to set and maintain a tone.

And what a tone he sets in “Glacial Reconstruction” from 1993’s Water Stories. Beneath pianist Ketil Bjørnstad, guitarist Terje Rypdal, and bassist Bjørn Kjellemyr he splashes with childlike wonder. And in Rypdal’s “Per Ulv” (Waves, 1978) he renders an unnecessary drum computer obsolete by the fullness of his groove. Even fuller are his contributions to pianist Keith Jarrett’s European Quartet, of which three exemplars are offered. The title tracks of 1989’s Personal Mountains and 1978’s My Song bear especial testament to his depth of color and evocation. His cymbals are themselves instruments of revelry and never let go until the music stops. From lyrical float to gravitational romp, as in “The Windup” (Belonging, 1974), his pacing is unforcedly appropriate.

Christensen was also a master of detailing, as evidenced in the quieter turns of “Tutte” from bassist Arild Andersen’s 1986 Bande À Part, as well as Bobo Stenson’s 1998 War Orphans, of which the title tune by Ornette Coleman turns his delicate restlessness into a language with its own grammar, syntax, and idioms. A language that only he could speak and which others may only hope to translate with fidelity.

As this is the final stop on the :rarum journey, you may also find it as part of a boxed set containing Volumes IX-XX, released in 2004. And while I do have my top picks from the series (this one included), it’s worth having all of them if you’re relatively new to ECM. Each is its own portal into the living and the dead, and a reminder that neither state of being means anything without the infinity between our ears to give meaning.

Rarum IX-XX

Bobo Stenson Trio: War Orphans (ECM 1604)


Bobo Stenson Trio
War Orphans

Bobo Stenson piano
Anders Jormin double-bass
Jon Christensen drums
Recorded May 1997 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Following a memorable return on 1996’s Reflections, the Bobo Stenson Trio strengthened its resolve with the release of War Orphans. Like the Ornette Coleman tune that gives the album its title, the flow borne out on these proceedings is attentive and sincere. The footfall of the same, tender as if not wanting to wake a sleeping child, lends this and its surroundings a natural feel. Yet it is “Oleo de mujer con sombrero” by Cuban folk singer and nueva trova pioneer Silvio Rodriguez that prefaces. A tender intro from Stenson leads us into the album cover’s barren vista, a place where memories and souls intermingle like characters in a Theo Angelopoulos film. Anders Jormin grows from the piano like a melodic appendage into the waters of his own “Natt.” The first of three tunes by the bassist, its current rolls stones into smooth jewels, while “Eleventh Of January” and “Sediment” bring synergy and whimsy in turn. Captivating solos in both cast him as the hub of this emotional wheel. Coleman resurfaces in “All My Life,” to which drummer Jon Christensen adds his skipping crosscurrents, setting off another star turn from Jormin, whose fingers dance their fretless way into the heart of Stenson’s lone original, “Bengali Blue.” This smooth joint crashes against the rhythm section’s shore before a surprisingly buoyant version of Duke Ellington’s “Melancholia” woos us into the piano’s final words, receding like a sun dipping its ladle into steaming ocean.

War Orphans has a feeling of clockwork, intimate gears set by key to turn and melodize. It is a salve to our innermost wounds. Like ripples in a pond from three stones, these minds naturally find ways to commingle.

Bjørnstad/Darling/Rypdal/Christensen: The Sea (ECM 1545)

The Sea

Ketil Bjørnstad piano
David Darling cello
Terje Rypdal guitar
Jon Christensen drums
Recorded September 1994 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

The twelve parts that comprise The Sea are of a proportion far beyond aquatic, for their magic lies in the hands and hearts of four musicians who came together for a session as ever-changing as its namesake. The number would seem to be significant: months in a year, hours in a day, each a cycle rendered timeless through a story that bleeds and weeps. David Darling’s trembling cello lets out the first cry, eddying with all the force of nature at the edge of a bow. Pianist Ketil Bjørnstad therefrom unfurls a theme for the ages, drifting as might a reader’s eyes pass over the words of a favorite letter. As the hearts of the session, his keys drip glitter and shadow in equal, sometimes comingling, measure. Drummer Jon Christensen knocks at a ghostly door suspended above the horizon, leaving guitarist Terje Rypdal to complete the picture, breaching vapor and phosphorous. Such is the first ray of light to spoke from this sonic hub, spinning to the pulse of Bjørnstad’s heart-tugging ostinatos in a pregnant and billowing unity. Somehow, the stars feel closer, each a solar flare arcing into rebirth. But the breath is always damp, the air even more so, while the language falters to hold its shape in the presence of something so free. Of note is Part VIII, a duet between Bjørnstad and Darling that presages The River and a beautiful lead-in to an enchanting closing of the triangle. The spectrum of Christensen’s palette grows richly and organically as threads wind together, each color a drop into the inky cascade of its rapture. Part XII closes the album with Bjørnstad at his solemn best, far from shore.

The power of this music is its ability to adapt to whatever mood you bring to it. The listener is its vessel. The Sea is also a remarkable feat of engineering, fully expressing ECM’s commitment not only to the evocation but also embodiment of concept. But though it might very well flourish in the flesh and machines that produced it, it ultimately flows from, and returns to, the currents of which it is composed.

<< Tomasz Stanko Quartet: Matka Joanna (ECM 1544)
>> Azimuth: Azimuth / The Touchstone / Départ (ECM 1546-48)

Bobo Stenson Trio: Serenity (ECM 1740/41)


Bobo Stenson Trio

Bobo Stenson piano
Anders Jormin double-bass
Jon Christensen drums
Recorded April 1999, HageGården Music Center, Brunskog, Sweden
Engineer: Åke Linton
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Serenity is the Bobo Stenson Trio’s night and day. With bassist Anders Jormin and drummer Jon Christensen, pianist Stenson has not only carved a niche for himself but has also redefined the tools with which he carves. With this date the Trio takes itself to yet another level, fashioning anew the very material to which those tools are laid. Something in the opening harmonics of “T.” tells us so. Blossoming against percussive footfalls, Jormin dances a tango of shadow and light into cool slumber, the dreams of which are mapped by the cardinal points of the next four tracks (“West Print,” “North Print,” “East Print,” “South Print”), each a magnetic improvisation which draws its directionality not only from the earth but also from the gravity of our emotions. The surest of these attractions brings us into the exigencies of the “Polska of Despair (II).” This chromatic twist never winds into the legs it needs to stand but only dissolves even as it hoists itself up on crumbling melodic crutches. In “Golden Rain” Jormin’s bass emotes as if a tree might sing, dropping fruit to the tune of Christensen’s cymbals as Stenson’s keys take in their surroundings like chlorophyll to sunlight. The nod to Wayne Shorter (“Swee Pea”) that follows sounds more like the rain that precedes it in title, falling as it does with the rhythm of a weeping cloud. And by the time Jormin redraws those paths with a recognizable surety, we accept it not as a resolution but as an amendment to its scattered beginnings in the piano’s fertile soil. “Simple & Sweet” begins with a protracted intro from Jormin, which after two and a half minutes of brilliance guides Stenson into view against an organic flow from Christensen. This is followed by Hanns Eisler’s “Die Pflaumenbaum,” one of the most reflective turns in the album’s passage. Christensen is brilliant on cymbals along the way, with nary a drum in earshot. “El Mayor” (Silvio Rodriguez) smoothes us out into the comforts of another rainy afternoon, threading itself through every droplet with a grace of a prayer and the immediacy of its answering. Jormin stands out yet again, playing almost pianistically, while Stenson proves that in the sometimes mountainous terrain of the ballad he is our most reliable Sherpa. The haunting group improvisation “Fader V (Father World)” is deep to the last drop, beginning inside the piano (as if in the heart) and drawing from it an array of ribbons around the maypole of memory. Yet the pace is contemplative, filled with bittersweet joy. Jormin’s bass rings true like the voice of the past, at once domineering and loving. “More Cymbals” might as well be Christensen’s middle name, though its results forefront only whispering rolls along with Jormin’s pained arco trails. “Die Nachtigall” (Hanns Eisler) is another foray into smoother territories. It brushes its way through space and time like a street sweeper in the mind, quarantining all the refuse of a varicolored life into the sewers—only we follow it through those corroded pipes, past families of rats and dim reflections and out into the ocean where they are reborn along the waves. The rubato smattering of sticks and strings that is “Rimbaud Gedicht” brings us at last to the most awesome track on the record: “Polska of Despair (I)” embodies the perfect combination of propulsive drumming, buoyant bass work (Jormin even pays brief homage to Andersen’s “305 W 18 St” in his solo), and soaring pianism that every trio aspires to. Finally, “Tonus” is classic Stenson. Around a bass line for the ages he weaves vivacious improvisational lines into a braid from which we may wish never to detangle ourselves.

The topography of Serenity is as varied as that of life, speaking to and from the heart of what this outfit is capable of. This record is first and foremost about clarity, second about a distant storm whose image is its soundtrack. In balancing these two forces—circumstance and memory—Stenson and company forge a shining star whose light illuminates everything that we are. It’s easy to let the spell of its lyricism wash over you like a song, but we are reminded that the Trio speaks as much as it sings, bringing life to a vocabulary that can only be uttered at the keyboard, fingerboard, and drum, each traipsing at the edge where words fail.

John Clark: Faces (ECM 1176)

John Clark

John Clark french horn
David Friedman vibraharp, marimba
David Darling cello
Jon Christensen drums
Recorded April 1980 at Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Faces documents the only appearance of versatile French hornist John Clark on ECM proper (he does, however, appear on a trio of WATT releases) and is one from a modest overall output as leader. Having performed with musicians as diverse as Paul Winter, LL Cool J, and Gil Evans, his tender considerations fit snugly with the Eicherian touch in this out-of-print session. Joined by David Friedman’s mallets, the particularly welcome presence of David Darling’s electric cello, and Jon Christensen on drums, Clark paints for us a rain-slicked character study of a life lived in slow motion.

Side A charts the album’s deepest waters in “The Abhà Kingdom.” Its understated flow of vibes, overdubbed horns, and cello courses in and out of sonar range, diving ever deeper with every muted clench, so that even Christensen’s accentuations seem to move at the speed of honey behind Friedman’s subdued yet strangely exuberant cartwheels. The afterimages of “Lament” would make the perfect backdrop for a Terje Rypdal excursion. Instead of that grinding song, we get the rounded icicles of Darling’s bow and the sustained arpeggio from vibes that leaves us hanging before dropping us onto Side B. Our guide on this descent is “Silver Rain.” The marimba vamp evokes an African thumb piano and affectionately embraces Clark’s processed horn. Friedman also shares a notable dialogue with Christensen here. Darling’s fluid threads are the binding force of “Faces In The Fire.” A comforting feeling of perpetuity abounds in that cello’s voice and brings out otherwise inaudible whispers. “Faces In The Sky” would feel right at home as the soundtrack for a road picture. Christensen beguiles with his delicacy, in which he cradles a delicate implication that never breaks, even under Darling’s far-reaching pizzicato. After all of this soul-searching, the carnivalesque “You Did It, You Did It!” ends the album in resolute jubilance.

Faces has a semi-porous quality and shimmers like the surface of an out-of-focus pool. It sits comfortably just below the rim of our consciousness, like a half-dream that one holds dear in the face of inevitable wakefulness.

<< Keith Jarrett: The Celestial Hawk (ECM 1175)
>> Walcott/Cherry/Vasconcelos: CODONA 2 (ECM 1177)

Keith Jarrett: My Song (ECM 1115)

ECM 1115

Keith Jarrett
My Song

Keith Jarrett piano, percussion
Jan Garbarek tenor and soprano saxophones
Palle Danielsson bass
Jon Christensen drums
Recorded November 1977 at Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

From the moment we step into the transport of Keith Jarrett’s European quartet, we know we are in for a comforting ride filled with lush scenery and temperate climes. “Questar” opens this set of six Jarrett originals by unfolding a melodic altar for the saxophonic offerings of Jan Garbarek, who trades prime invocations with Jarrett in a formula that pervades the rest of the album to great success. The gorgeous title track, in which we encounter a slightly mournful but always majestic invocation, widens the music’s embrace. Garbarek’s pleasing yet incisive tone works wonders and continues to lead the way in “Tabarka,” where nostalgia shares its berth with the dripping shadows of resolution, and which protects the Michael Naura-like buoyancy of “Country” like a dome over Palle Danielsson’s wonderful solo on bass.

Jarrett cultivates the talents of his fellow musicians in a garden rife with unique hybrids. While his left hand is firmly rooted in the soil of his rhythm section, his right seems to frolic in the rain that nourishes it, changing from liquid to gas and back to liquid in a perpetual cycle of self-renewal. He comes across as nothing less than perfection, sharing in this democratic spread of passion. The colorful scatterings of his solo in “Mandala,” for example, are made all the more so for the fantastic rhythm section backing him every step of the way. As Jarrett peaks with intensity, Garbarek arches his back like a sun flare, a whip cracking silently through time-space in slow motion, giving us an aftertaste of the Norwegian reedman at his early best. During another rich bass solo, Jarrett plucks the strings inside his piano as if to defuse the epiphany. After this palpable spurt of energy, “The Journey Home” breathes a sigh of relief and provides the album’s most gorgeous turns from Jarrett. Fluid as his song, his voice basks in the sunshine. Not to be outdone, Garbarek matches this elegiac acuity, at last fading into brushed cymbals.

The music of Keith Jarrett was already highly sustainable long before the concept became an obligatory buzzword. With My Song he brings that personal ecology in fullest force. Garbarek hardly sounds better than he does alongside the discerning piano man, and is here soulful, restrained, consolatory but also insistent, and never afraid to let loose once in a while. These are musicians bound by trust, which they express with every pellucid turn of phrase they utter on an album that represents one of ECM’s most stunning dates of the seventies.

<< Pat Metheny Group: s/t (ECM 1114)
>> Egberto Gismonti: Sol Do Meio Dia (ECM 1116)

Enrico Rava: The Pilgrim And The Stars (1063)

ECM 1063

Enrico Rava
The Pilgrim And The Stars

Enrico Rava trumpet
John Abercrombie guitar
Palle Danielsson bass
Jon Christensen drums
Recorded June 1975 at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher

In today’s wealth of commercially visible jazz trumpeters, one pines for vintage brass at the lips of musicians for whom “creativity” is more than just a brand. And while I’m the first to admit to having a soft spot for the likes of Chris Botti, there’s nothing like an Enrico Rava experience to wipe your slate of appreciation clean and start you on a fresh path. From the striking cover to the synergistic musicianship, Rava’s ECM debut is an album to return to time and again. Joined by a dream team of John Abercrombie on guitar, Palle Danielsson on bass, and Jon Christensen on drums, Rava reaches for the sky with this one, and succeeds.

The title track brings the album to life in raspy exhalation. This whisper turns into full-blown speech as Abercrombie takes the rhythmic wheel. He steers us into “Parks,” in which we find Rava at his most incisive. In a lively duet with acoustic guitar, he lays down a smooth melody filled with a nostalgia you never knew you had. This is a fantastic track, and one of Rava’s brightest moments. Next is “Bella,” which lays down a gentle groove before Rava flexes his lungs like wings, setting every note to flight. Christensen brings on the frenzy, to which Rava adds his own, yet with a delicacy that never leaves him. An intense guitar solo of soaring and piercing clarity follows. A rare whoop from Christensen knocks things up a rung or two, and a very present Danielsson cuts to the quick before ending on a glorious reinstatement of the theme from Rava. The lead melody of “Pesce Naufrago” coalesces out of the slow-motion big bangs that birth much of the band’s gravity. “Surprise Hotel” is a wilder affair, with energetic runs all around in a confined space. “By The Sea” offers wonderful reinforcement in the bass as Abercrombie circles overhead with distant cries. We end with “Blancasnow,” in which Rava floats his trumpet in the murky waters of his rhythm section. After a free and easy introduction, he pulls us toward even greater melodic destinations.

What’s amazing about these musicians in that they conduct so much creative electricity from such quiet musical circuits. Rava is, as per usual, variously a raging fire and a delicate flicker, straying as far from the wick as possible while remaining tethered by the thinnest of flames. The band is miked in a nice full spread, drums and trumpet at center, bass in the mid-right channel, and guitar anchored hard left. This leaves plenty of room for us to walk among them and enjoy the sounds as if they were our own.

<< Collin Walcott: Cloud Dance (ECM 1062)
>> Keith Jarrett: The Köln Concert (ECM 1064/65)

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

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)