Eberhard Weber put his stamp on improvised music in Europe in the early 1970s with his unmistakable sound; there is no other electric bassist, with the possible exception of the late Jaco Pastorius, who is as immediately identifiable. Working with his custom-made upright 5-string electric bass, he gradually expanded his sound possibilities to a point where they became virtually orchestral. The cellos of the Stuttgart Radio Orchestra helped define the characteristics of Weber's first ECM recording in 1973,The Colours Of Chloë (ECM 1042). Here, Weber's sound had very little in common with the American jazz-bass tradition from Ray Brown to Scott La Faro and - for that very reason - intrigued American musicians including Ralph Towner and Gary Burton. Later, Weber became a member of Towner's seminal Solstice group and - along with Pat Metheny - a guest in Burton's various bands.
In 1979, Weber worked with Burton again on Fluid Rustle, together with Bill Frisell who was making his recording debut. In the same period - from 1975 to 1980 - Weber led his own quartet, the band called Colours with Charlie Mariano, Rainer Brüninghaus and variously Jon Christensen or John Marshall on drums. The three Colours albums, Yellow Fields (ECM 1066), Silent Feet (ECM 1107) and Little Movements (ECM 1186) remain, in the words of the Swiss magazine Bund, "among the great achievements of European jazz". With Endless Days, his first recording as a leader in seven years, Eberhard Weber now returns to that quartet combination of bass, wind-player, piano, and percussion, but with greatly altered priorities.
Eberhard Weber: "For this recording I wanted to create something closer to classical music, which I've always loved - something approaching that kind of sound world, without aiming at a fusion of both the classical and the jazz genre, which, in my eyes, is impossible. I just included some orchestral sounds as I started working with the quartet in the studio. In principle the music is completely notated. Other than the two solo pieces for bass, there is only a limited amount of improvisation: for instance, Rainer Brüninghaus's intro to "Concerto For Piano", plus various solos by Paul McCandless, Rainer and myself. On my last solo recordingPendulum (ECM 1518) I took the opportunity to demonstrate what I'm capable of doing on my instrument. This time, I wanted to avoid repeating that kind of showcase but instead have the instrument perform within the ensemble in a more traditional manner, as a base and support. On Endless Days, I deliberately avoided setting up opportunities for solos and tried to play down the element of self-presentation that is prevalent in jazz today."
The choice of musicians was determined during the process of composition. Weber had worked with Paul McCandless in 1982 on his last ensemble recording, Later that Evening (ECM 1231). McCandless was a founding member of the group, Oregon (with Ralph Towner, Collin Walcott and Glen Moore), and since 1972 he had collaborated on ECM recordings by Towner and Oregon, as well as with the groups Gallery (with Dave Samuels, David Darling, Ratzo Harris and Michael DiPasqua) and Skylight (with Art Lande and Dave Samuels). "In choosing the melody instrument," says Eberhard Weber, "I wanted to go somewhat in the direction of classical instrumentation, and that led me to Paul. On the entire recording he plays his soprano saxophone only once, and the rest of the time he plays 'classical' instruments: oboe, English horn and bass clarinet. I wrote some extremely difficult passages for him, especially in the title piece 'Endless Days' - there are very few people who would be able to play them as well as he does."
Weber met Michael DiPasqua while playing in the Jan Garbarek Group in the early 80s and subsequently integrated the drummer into his own Later That Evening project. In 1986 DiPasqua retired completely from the musical scene until Weber, fourteen years later, was able to convince the percussionist to return to the studio for Endless Days. Weber: "I wanted the drums to sound more like percussion rather than to groove in the classic jazz style. Before we started to record I rather paradoxically told the musicians: 'You can play everything, as long as it doesn't sound like jazz.' That's not to say I have anything against the drive and the motor functions of jazz, but I wanted an open musical concept and that's why I asked Michael - and he was immediately taken by the project. I sent him tapes of the compositions so he could prepare and when he came to the studio he played with great sensitivity and freedom."
Rainer Brüninghaus played on The Colours Of Chloë (ECM 1042), as well as on the three Colours albums. He has also recorded two albums of his own for ECM: Freigeweht (ECM 1187) and Continuum (ECM 1266). Towards the end of the 80s, Brüninghaus joined the Jan Garbarek Group of which Weber had already been a member for 10 years. For Endless Days, Weber called on his long-time ally because he is "someone who is an all-around musician who can play classical music as well as jazz. He is intuitive, an outstanding sight-reader and wonderful improviser. He came to see me at home before the recording sessions and we worked through the project together. His great sense of ensemble playing combined with his wonderful piano playing made him the ideal choice for me".
With one exception, all the pieces on Endless Days are new compositions. This includes the two bass solos that punctuate the album ("Solo for Bass" and "A Walk in the Garrigue") which, according to Weber, "actually derive from the same idea and structure". The only older title on the album is 'The Last Stage of a Long Journey', which is the first track of Little Movements: "I have always liked this piece and it is eminently suitable for this instrumentation. I have nothing against re-recording older pieces; and in this case there are actually some fairly substantial changes in the entire approach which give the piece a much more contemporary feel. Just recently I listened to some of my old records again, and there are some parts which I now find hard to relate to. Maybe we had more patience for long introductions or repetition back then - like in the original version of 'The Last Stage...'. On Endless Days, I kept on crossing out passages to avoid repetitive or redundant sections. I put great value on economy of expression."