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February 22 , 2013

Reviews of the Week

Wislawa, the first recording by the freshly formed Tomasz Stanko New York Quartet, is welcomed by reviewers in Britain

The first double album of Stanko’s career, the first recorded completely in America, the first with an American band. Yet the album is his most Polish to date. To use a connotation from the title of earlier album Lontano, it’s the ‘faraway’ contemplation on the aestheticism of his homeland via the poetry of the great Wislawa Szymborska. Stanko performed with the Nobel laureate late in her life, and several of the album’s compositions are inspired directly by her work. An they are sublime, particularly ‘Mikrokosmos’ to cite from Clare Cavanaghand Stanislaw Baranczak’s translation, ‘a cold fear blew and it’s still blowing’. At 70 Stanko is inspired all over again. Wislawa is music of the night, a dream to feed the imagination.
Stephen Graham, Jazzwise

If an aura of improvised poetic distillation is at the heart of this modally sprung, melodically etched musc (sample the two versions of the requiemised title track) there is also plenty of edgy fire and drive [...] Archetypal, essential music from one of Europe’s most striking – and affecting – poets of his instrument.
Michael Tucker, Jazz Journal

Chris Potter's The Sirens impresses in the United States and The United Kingdom alike

His credentials are impeccable, his interests are varied, he’s open minded, he has total command of his instruments and he constantly pushes himself. On The Sirens, the first ECM record under is leadership, all of these factors come together to make an intelligent, often beautiful disc that brings me a step closer to adoration. Central is his choice of band, which includes the magnificently versatile rhythm section of drummer Eric Harland and bassit Larry Grenadier, together with pianist Craig Taborn, who’s proven himself one of the visionaries of the current wave. Potter’s notion of augmenting his core corps with another keyboardist, namely David Virelles, is nothing short of daring, and it proves to be a very successful surprise.
John Corbett, Downbeat

Manfred Eicher’s imprimatur, as well as his always-sparkling and realistic production, should help elevate Potter from his status as musicians’s musician and critic’s darling to the proverbial wider recognition as a sax colossus. This quintet studio session- with David Virelles adding unconventional prepared piano, celeste, and harmonium alongside pianist Craig Taborn, bassist Larry Grenadier, and drummer Eric Harland – showcases Potter’s virtuosity on tenor, soprano and (on one piece) bass clarinet. The playing keeps your mind racing along multiple trails – some rocky and convoluted, some smooth and linear – leading through terrain that morphs at surprising moments from dense woodlands to wide open spaces. The musicians negotiate Potter’s thorny yet welcomng compositions, which nod subtly to his bebop roots but also advance into a post_Monk-and_Coltrane place with a view of Jazz’s future.
DR, Absolute Sound

Homer’s Odyssey is a natural inspiration for jazz musicians with its theme of a searching journey and all kinds of hazardous atttractions along the way. For his debut as a leader on the ECM label, one of the most acclaimed and respected saxophonists of his generation, and a worthy standard bearer for modern tenor playing, keeping the Michael Brecker flame aloft, Chris Potter has assembled a fine band for his own Odyssey. [...] Not only is The Sirens a triumph from a playing point of view, but it shows how strong Potter the composer has become down the years. This is possibly his finest achievement yet, and at the same time I’m sure it’s only another few steps in a longer, even more fulfilling jazz journey for both Potter and his growing number of admirers.
Peter Bacon, The Jazz Breakfast

English and German reactions on Hagar's Song, the new duo recording by Charles Lloyd and Jason Moran

Saxophonist Charles Lloyd, soon to be 75, here gives an intimate closeup of his warm relationship with brilliant pianist Jason Moran – and with his enslaved great-great-grandmother, who names the album through Lloyd's suite in her memory. Evergreens such as Ellington's Mood Indigo mingle with Dylan's I Shall Be Released and the Beach Boys' God Only Knows – the latter choice reflecting Lloyd's California sojourns with the Beach Boys in the 1970s. [...] the album is a testament to the sonic eloquence Lloyd discovered on his comeback via ECM at the end of the 80s – in haunting pieces such as Bess, You Is My Woman Now, the lovely ballad All About Ronnie and the distantly Ornette-like Hagar's Lullaby.
John Fordham, The Guardian

Lloyd, ein alter Fuchs auf diversen Saxofonen und Föten, der gern zwischen der klanglichen Weite und gestalterischen Freiheit des Free Jazz und der Melodik festerer Songstrukturen vermittelt, wird im März 75. Sein Partner Moran, wie Lloyd Nachfahre afroamerikanischer Sklaven, ist grad halb so alt. […] Das gemeinsame Album […] basiert auf einem sehr konkreten Südstaatenschicksal: Lloyds Ururgroßmutter wurde einst ihren Eltern entrissen und als Sklavenmädchen von Mississppi nach Tennessee verkauft, wo sie von ihrem neuen Besitzer geschwängert wurde, kaum dass sie 14 war. Ihr ist das Album gewidmet, und die fünfteilige ‚HagarSuite’, mit fast 30 Minuten das längste und gewichtigste Stück, bebildert ihren Leidensweg durch Schmerz und Einsamkeit und ihre Flucht in tröstliche Träumereien. Lloyd wechselt zwischen Alt- und Tenorsaxophon, spielt auch Bass- und Altflöte, und seine offenen, eher wehmütigen als grimmigen Stimmungen werden von Morans prägnanten Pianoläufen dunkel grundiert und gebunden. Die übrigen neun Titel entstammen diversen Gipfeln der Rocky, Jazz & Classic Mountains Amerikas […] Diese grandiosen Stücke, dazu die Ballade ‚You’ve Changed’, die durch Billie Holiday berühmt wurde, oder das von Djano Reinhardt und Nat King Cole geadelte Kleinod ‚Rosetta’ werden hier so stark überformt, dass der Ursprung oft nur noch vage erkennbar ist. Und doch ist das nicht nur Zitat, sondern Verwandlung und Weiterführung. Die beiden harmonieren prächtig: Aus starker Musik erwächst andere starke Musik. Die hier ist wie ein Bad in einem Wasserfall, aus einer Kaskade aus Trinkwasser. Erfrischend, prickelnd, kraftvoll, köstlich und cool.
Jens-Uwe Sommerschuh, Sächsische Zeitung

Jazz Times recommends Jack DeJohnette's Special Edition box set

If you had a to plant a flag anywhere among his voluminous catalog to design a Jack DeJohnette primer, this four CD box featuring the work of his group Special Edition would be a wise choice. It contains the best material from DeJohnette’s longest-running, most mutifaceted and critically acclaimed ensemble. [...] In Special Edition the master collaborator gave full rein and prominence to own musical skills and vision. Within these four records is not only his quintessential solo-drum work – ‘The Gri Gri Man’ on Tin Can Alley – but his extensive and ear-opening use of piano melodica, clavinet, organ and even some vocals. There are songs that harken to the foundation of the blues and the pioneer jazz spirit of New Orleans, and fiery, discordant songs that take jazz ‘outside’ and then up into the heavens [...] And yet, over this sprawling terrain encompassing nearly three hours of music, there is a remarkable coherence and guiding sensibility.
Britt Robson, Jazz Times

Eberhard Weber's Résumé gets acclaim from America

As always, regardless of direction or setting, Weber’s tone is simultaneously audacious and crystalline. Even when he’s wailing away he’s a master of understatement, drilling deeply but never allowing his own skillfulness to become the story. Hopefully Résumé is a placeholder and not a final statement; either way it’s grand.
Jeff Tamarkin, Jazz Times

All about Jazz on Manu Katché

On this self-titled release comprised of a multinational quartet, rock-solid pulses, richly melodic content and resounding storylines exquisitely coalesce. But the differentiator lies within Katché’s enthralling compositions, sheened by the breathy , wideopen ECM soundscape aura. Highlighted with asymmetrical parts of brawn, finesse and capaciously executed motifs, the band casts an ethereal spell, but offsets the melodies with succinct grooves, spiraling choruses and hearty improvisational sprees.
Glenn Astarita, All About Jazz

British daily The Times on Eleni Karaindrou's Concert In Athens

Greece’s finest film and theatre composer also has some useful friends. Fabilous solos from saxophonist Jan Garbarek, viola player Kim Kashkashian and oboist Vangelis Christopoulos grace this concert of Eleni Karaindrou’s beguilingly atmospheric music. I like it best when it is mistily melancholic, with languid Middle Eastern modes, tinged with Bach-like figuration, static Satie-esque harmonies or minimalist patterns reminiscent of Arvo Pärt, rising out of silence.
Richard Morrison, The Times

The Boston Globe on Anna Gourari's Canto Oscuro

This smartly crafted and beautifuly played recital by pianist Anna Gourari unfolds like a history of Bach’s enduring influence in the 20th century. It opens with Ferruccio Busoni’s famously lush arrangement of the chorale prelude ‘Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ’. A few seconds of silence separate its conclusion from the jarring opening chords of Sofia Gubaidulina’s ‘Chaconne’ [...] a piano transcription of the Chaconne by Russian composer Alexander Siloti appears as the CD’s penultimate track. At the center of ‘Canto Oscuro’ is ‘Suite 1922’ by Paul Hindemith, of all 20th-century composers the one whose language hewed most closely to Bach’s. [...] Siloti’s arrangement of the B-minor Prelude from the second book of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier closes the program, and like everything here, it’s played with such opulent tone and remarkable fluidity by Gourari as to belie the true difficulty of almost all the music here.
David Weininger, The Boston Globe

Praise from Italy for András Schiff's recording of J.S. Bach's Das Wohltemperierte Clavier

Schiff, però, utilizza il pianoforte in una maniera innovative e di straordinaria intelligenza. Il punto di partenza è, diversamente dalla vecchia edizione, un uso quasi nullo del pedale. Questo non è rivolto, come aacade in Gould, a dare un’immagine che infine è prevalentemente fonica, ma mira alla ricostruzione rigorosa del contrappunto in un’opera che su di esso è ampiamente fondata: tutte le fughe e un buon numero di preludi. Schiff dà infatti un eccezionale rilievo alle linee contrapuntistiche facendo con il pianoforte quello che il cembalo può fare poco e in altro modo, utilizzando cioè in modo pervasivo marcate differenzazioni dinamiche e di articolazione. Sceglie tempi piuttosto serrati. Almeno tendenzialmente, e suona con un ‘energia costante e controllata, con innumerevoli passaggi che riescono ad assumere una incisività e una chiarezza assolutamente fuori del comune. Il tocco è pensato nota per nota, con la res sonora che riesece a tradurre la geometria della pagina bachiana – per chi abbia presenti le partiture, una geometria ben visibile anche sul pentagramma - e un’aderenza alla architettura complessiva che impressiona ad ogni ascolto. [...] Con un grande capolavoro come il ‘Clavicembalo ben temperato’ fare paragoni diretti è rischioso e può riuscire banale, ma certo, se ci si limitasse al pianoforte, trovare di meglio sarebbe arduo; e se anche non ci si limitasse al pianoforte, questa edizione resterebbe comunque tra le pochissime di riferimento.
Filippo Gonnelli, Audio Review