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March 16 , 2004

MORE GREAT JAZZ COMING

Due in April: new albums by Marilyn Crispell, John Abercrombie and Steve Kuhn!

Steve Kuhn’s “Promises Kept” is the American pianist’s first recording for ECM since 1995’s “Remembering Tomorrow”. The new CD features Kuhn’s piano flanked by a string ensemble conducted by Carlos Franzetti, and has distinct echoes of the Steve Kuhn/Gary McFarland 1966 masterpiece, “The October Suite”. In the liner notes, Bob Blumenthal describes “Promises Kept” as Kuhn’s “most beautiful recording.”

“Storyteller” by the Marilyn Crispell Trio and “Class Trip” by the John Abercrombie Quartet are, meanwhile, already firm office favourites, in heavy rotation at ECM’s Munich headquarters.

Although all trio members contribute material to “Storyteller”, Marilyn Crispell’s disc places its central focus on the still-underrated compositions of Paul Motian. As with Marilyn’s interpretations of Annette Peacock (“Nothing Ever Was Anyway”), these feel like definitive readings, and the dialogues between pianist and drummer, mediated by new bassist Mark Helias, are endlessly, profoundly creative.

John Abercrombie’s quartet with Mark Feldman, Marc Johnson and Joey Baron made many new friends with international performances in the wake of the “Cat’n’Mouse” album. “Class Trip” reveals heightened group interplay and a quick witted responsiveness that is simply a joy to hear. Abercrombie has written a fine bunch of new tunes that serve as springboards into the free zone, and the quartet also turns its attention to Béla Bartók’s “Soldier’s Song”.

Due in June: new albums by Carla Bley and Maneri/Phillips/Maneri…

Carla Bley’s disc features her new quartet The Lost Chords – formed by the cunning move of adding her Big Band drummer, the excellent Billy Drummond, to the long established trio of Carla, Steve Swallow and Andy Sheppard. Worth buying for Carla’s deadpan sleeve notes alone, the music, recorded live in Europe, also has its droll charms as well as many a distinguished solo, with the suite “Three Blind Mice” standing out as some kind of magnum opus.

ECM brought together microtonal improvisers Joe and Mat Maneri with veteran bass giant Barre Phillips for the production project “Tales of Rohnlief” in 1998, and the three musicians found such immediate rapport that they’ve been working together at every opportunity since then. “Angles of Repose”, the new disc, was recorded in the chapel of Ste. Philomene next door to Phillips’s home in the south of France, and the warmly resonant sound of the chapel becomes part of the music’s personality, as Mat (on viola) and Barre continue to find new ways to frame or challenge the uniquely vocal sound of Joe’s saxes and clarinet. No other “free music” group sounds like this.