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July 7 , 2011

Reviews of the Week

In the New York Times, Nate Chinen surveys solo piano as a genre, noting some of the landmarks along the way, including ECM albums by Paul Bley (”Solo in Mondsee””) and Keith Jarrett (”The Köln Concert”, ”The Melody At Night, With You”) and bringing the discussion into the present with Craig Taborn’s solo disc: ”Avenging Angel” – a clutch of compact interrogations, unpremeditated but structurally coherent – reflects Mr. Taborn’s galactically broad interests along with his multifaceted technique. You might hear flashes of 20th century classical music: Ligeti, perhaps, or Messiaen. You might hear echoes of Mr. Jarrett and Mr. Bley (and ECM’s founder-producer Manfred Eicher). In the album’s obsession with permutation you might hear shades of electronic music. At the heart of Mr. Taborn’s enterprise is a fascination with pure sound. The album is full of moments where a note hangs sharply in the air, and you hear the gathering overtones, the vibrations of the strings.”

Also in the NYT, Jon Pareles salutes the broad span of Amina Alaoui’s “Arco Iris”: “The Moroccan singer and songwriter, who now lives in Spain, imagines her own Iberian peninsula: a latter-day Andalusia where the Middle East and Europe meet with expressive arabesques and tragic, romantic, mystical poetry … The album touches on Portuguese fado, Spanish flamenco and Persian and Arab-Andalusian classical music. But these hushed, gorgeous songs are profoundly personal reflections on where those traditions could lead.”

“Meredith Monk soars on ’Songs of Ascension’, a headline in the Washington Post confirms. Anne Midgette writes, “Language falls silent at Meredith Monk’s music. Her radiant new work picks up where language leaves off. There’s plenty of voice, of course, Monk’s work is firmly centred on the human voice – here, babbling in wordless syllables, ululating like a coyote, extended like a siren. Voices hold out sustained chords in the reverent sonority of a full choir, or rise in expressive solos, like an aria without words or a folk song from a culture you might have remembered from a previous life… each of the 21 selections offers a distinct musical microclimate. The culminating, extended quasi-chorale called ‘Ascent’ turns loose all the musicians, the voices like bird calls in a jungle over the dark tread of the cello, in a warm and large scale act of communion.”.

In England’s The Guardian, John Fordham writes of the eponymous recording debut of Marilyn Mazur’s ”Celestial Circle” band: “Former Miles Davis percussionist Marilyn Mazur sits inside an exotic kit of gongs, bells and drums that could fill a small room, but her instincts are world-musical and very outgoing. She could hardly be in better company than in this unusual session, which joins Django Bates’s subtle Swedish vocalist Josefine Cronholm with British piano virtuoso John Taylor and Swedish bassist Anders Jormin. Ripples of metallic sounds and low booms, humming bass fills and Taylor’s gleaming piano lines wash around Cronholm’s clear girlish tones – and the empathy between pianist and bassist intensifies the energy of the whole enterprise … As usual, ECM’s engineering perfectly captures the nuances of all this fascinating detail.”

German weekly Die Zeit describes the Konitz/Meldau/ Haden/Motian “Live at Birdland” set as a monument distilled from a concert series. Touched by contributions of all participants, journalist Stefan Hentz singles out Brad Mehldau for special praise: “The pianist plays as rarely before: concentrated and varied, economical and powerful. With instinctive certainty he moves between delicate dabs of colour and bold splashes, between pointillism and action painting, and juggles with hints of dissonance which heighten tension in the group playing.”