Wolfert Brederode Trio: Black Ice (ECM 2476)

Black Ice

Wolfert Brederode Trio
Black Ice

Wolfert Brederode piano
Gulli Gudmundsson double bass
Jasper van Hulten drums
Recorded July 2015, Auditorio Molo RSI, Lugano
Engineer: Stefano Amerio
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Release date: April 1, 2016

It wasn’t the notes, it was the silences between the notes. Some music is the very enemy of silence, keeping the sounds coming so that the listener has no time to reflect. But other music, the music she played for herself, was different…
–Simon Mawer, The Glass Room

Following his quartet outings, Currents and Post Scriptum, pianist Wolfert Brederode dips into the font of trioism, joining forces with bassist Gulli Gudmundsson and drummer Jasper van Hulten. It’s a setting in which Brederode feels very much at home, despite the varied ensembles of which he has been a part, both within and without the ECM stable.

Given the vast amounts of energy put out by those preceding albums, “Elegia” involves as a tender welcome. Brederode’s sound-world is no less clearly defined, but here maps its crisp shoreline by the waves rolling onto it. A strum along the piano strings lands us softly into the arid “Olive Tree,” for which the band sidesteps that slow-motion crash in favor of utter restraint. In that restraint, however, lurks the ever-present possibility of fractures, so that every groove courts rupture. That everything holds together is due to fierce communication between the musicians, best expressed in the evocative title track: a smooth, glassine surface across which melodies glide without fear of falling through.


The patient unfolding of “Cocoon” proves just how dedicated Brederode and his crew they are to keeping their vessel afloat. Solos are few and far between, as they should be, as no voice is intended to dominate. Gudmundsson’s shaded “Conclusion,” the only non-Brederode original of the set, foregrounds its composer in one of few exceptions. The bassist’s presence throughout “Curtains” and “Rewind,” both highlights, is also notable. Likewise van Hulten’s snare in “Fall,” another oceanic mooring.

As with anything Brederode touches, however, primary focus is on message over medium. Where “Bemani” is a tapered ligament connecting soil and sky, “Terminal” is an unsettling illustration of horizontal anxieties. Meant to evoke an airport after hours, its brevity is proportional to its experiential vividness. But nowhere does the candle of evocation burn so brightly as in “Glass Room,” which by its architectural sensitivity treats windows not as portals but as palimpsests of our deepest desires.

Another glorious example of why ECM is the world’s most significant trio archive.

Wolfert Brederode Quartet: Currents (ECM 2004)


Wolfert Brederode Quartet

Wolfert Brederode piano
Claudio Puntin clarinets
Mats Eilertsen double-bass
Samuel Rohrer drums
Recorded June 2006 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Dutch pianist Wolfert Brederode, previously heard buoying the voice of Susanne Abbuehl on April and Compass, makes his ECM leader debut, fronting a quartet of lyric integrity. Brederode takes the standard piano trio, fleshed here by bassist Mats Eilertsen and drummer Samuel Rohrer, and adds to it the clarinet of Claudio Puntin for a sound that is distinctly “chamber jazz” yet something more. That something more comes out through the plurivocity of Brederode’s compositions, which in the hands of these capable sound-smiths take to their own measures of flight from note one.

Indeed, it’s hard not to be won over after the first few moments of “Common Fields.” As the album’s introduction, its work is twofold. First, it establishes a taste of things to come. Second, and equally important, it testifies to producer Manfred Eicher’s ear for sequencing. With its piano arpeggios, curling like the lips of a foamy tide, it paints a geography as vivid as sunset. The clarinet wanders onto land like an abandoned ship whose ghosts drag the heavy chains of memory as their bounty. Eilertsen marks their footprints in the sand, claiming the island as their own. As the rhythm section becomes more apparent, the diction becomes starker, more animated, turning pathos into chaos and back again. Along with the dazzling poetics of “Scarabee” and “Ebb,” this track evokes atmospheres not unlike ECM’s unforgettable The Sea. Fans of the same are sure to feel right at home, while also expanding their purview toward this quartet’s landscaping.

Other points of confluence crop up along the way. “Empty Room,” for example, recalls the opening tune (“Nicolette”) of Kenny Wheeler’s Angel Song, while Abbuehl’s “As You July Me” (the album’s only tune not by Brederode and an ode to E. E. Cummings) draws from the pianist’s longstanding alliance with the Swiss jazz vocalist and proceeds accordingly with lush pacing. Much of the album’s remainder traces bridges of harmony over nocturnal divides. Some tracks (“High & Low”) glisten like rain-slicked streets; others (“Desiderata”) adopt inward-looking posture, taking in the clarinet’s sunrays for denser foliage and deeper roots. The feeling moves from water to land, emerging in “Soil” like an animal from hibernation amid splashes of light and shadow, and spouting elliptical wisdom in “Frost Flower.” The latter is an album highlight, a snowflake turned miracle in the cold, cold wind.

The tenderest moments come in the form of “With Them,” an interlude for piano and clarinet, and the concluding “Barcelona,” a strangely twisted path through rarely trodden alleyways. The pianism seeks what it finds: a storehouse of experience waiting to be written, played, and heard.

Although Brederode and his companions never stray too far afield, there is genuine freedom working beneath all the precision. It’s the best of both worlds, and makes worlds of both.