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ECM Listening, Day 8- Sam Rivers, Contrasts

Sam Rivers, saxophones

George Lewis, trombone

Dave Holland, bass

Thurman Barker, drums

The musical collaboration between Rivers and Holland is in full glory on this record.  After several collaborations through the 1970s, it’s obvious from this 1980 recording that their musical voices blend perfectly, and the addition of the the other musicians on this record only further depth of the music.  The third track on the record, “Solace” includes Barker playing marimba and Holland using his bow, as well as lilting melodies by Rivers and extended brass techniques by Lewis.  As a fan of New Music, I’d fully believe that this piece was fully planned, notated, and expertly executed in the “classical” sense.  It soon evolves into a “free jazz” environment, then back to a more subdued texture similar to the opening, after which it concludes rapidly.

It’s not always easy to discern “form” in free improvisation, however there’s no doubt in my mind of the musicians’ intentions to convey this aspect of musical practice.   This self-imposed musical limitation provides a nice contrast to the often free-wheeling and unstructured “free” improvisations attempted by creative improvising musicians.  However, my feeling is that a certain amount of spontaneity, one of the most attractive characteristics of free improvisation, is lost in deference to a type of “improvisation game.”  In fact, I enjoyed the tracks on this record that were more clearly free and allowed to unfold with the whims of the musicians.

Despite this, the music on this album is varied and interesting, and covers a wide array of jazz “styles,” holding true to the album’s name.  Each musician displays plenty of technical ability, musical taste, and creativity.  It definitely warrants multiple listenings!

ECM Listening, Day 7

Yes, I’m still working on this project!  Not being on top of writing these blog entries is one of those things I kick myself about, and there’s no real excuse except that it slips my mind.

Regardless, I’m still doing the listening!  I can’t get over this album- keep coming back to it.  There’s so much beautiful playing here!  I suppose I’m still on the Anders Jormin kick…it’s easy to do so!

ECM Listening Day 6- Dave Holland “Extensions”

This record from 1990 foreshadows the sound of Holland’s groups from the last two decades, though pared down to a quartet format.  I love Steve Coleman’s playing, and it’s nice to hear him in, for lack of a better term, a more “traditional” format than the groups under his leadership.

ECM Listening, Day 5- Anders Jormin, “Ad Lucem”

After listening to “From the Green Hill” by Polish trumpet player Tomasz Stanko I had to listen to more of Anders Jormin’s music.  Though I had heard him on a couple of recordings, I hadn’t gone deep enough.  My mistake! I’ll be checking him out a lot in the next few days!

ECM Listening, Day 4- Tomasz Stanko “From the Green Hill”

Bandoneon, violin, baritone saxophone, a glass of rosé, and the Steelers vs. the Packers.  The makings of a nice night’s entertainment!

This is a beautiful album!  I’m most drawn at first to Anders Jormin’s bass sound, though it’s perfectly offset by the darkness of Stanko’s trumpet, with Michelle Makarski’s violin blending the two.  It’s hard not to draw an association between tango and bandoneon, though Dino Saluzzi’s playing extends beyond this cliché.

ECM Listening Day 3- Vijay Iyer, “Break Stuff”

I really like this record, and the name makes me chuckle.

ECM Listening Day 2- Ralph Alessi, “Quiver”

I had the honor of working with Ralph Alessi as an undergraduate at Eastman in 1996.  Coming from a relatively conservative jazz background, I hadn’t been exposed to the freedom of less-structured improvisational environments, and these new experiences drastically altered my musical world-view.  Many of the concepts Ralph and Michael Cain discussed during my time in school continue to inform my opinions and approaches to music, and I’m eternally grateful for their influence.

Ralph is joined on the recording by one of my favorite pianists, Gary Versace, who now holds the jazz piano faculty position at Eastman.  Also on this record are Drew Gress, and Nasheet Waits, again, two of my favorite musicians out there.

The music on this recording blurs the line between composition and improvisation, which in my mind is the whole point of a modern improviser’s aesthetic.  I appreciate the seemingly endless stream of ideas offered by Ralph, and his unique voice in this music is unmistakable.  Gary, Drew, and Nasheet provide beautiful accompaniments, also adding their individual voices to produce a complete work.

The music here is really amazing.