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March 21 , 2013

Reviews of the Week

British daily The Guardian on City Of Broken Dreams by the Giovanni Guidi Trio

This is an enchanting trio album by Guidi, the 28-year-old from Foligno in Italy widely pitched as one of the world's best jazz-piano newcomers – on his first ECM date as a leader. American double-bassist Thomas Morgan and Portuguese drummer João Lobo share equally in the transformation of a series of deceptively simple but very different folk-melody themes into collective-improv meditations [...] Guidi's touch is subtle, and his sound rings; he constantly invites Morgan to reflect on the briefest of piano fragments [...] But this is a dynamic and accessible set, too, with tracks resembling Paul Bley's early interpretations of Carla Bley themes, waltzing ballads as inviting as Jacques Brel love songs, frostily delicate tunes that segue into sinister marches. This might be another unplugged jazz piano trio, but this one sweeps straight into the frontrunners.
John Fordham, The Guardian

American and German reactions on Iva Bittová's first solo album for ECM, Iva Bittová

A recital of stark but warm yet haunting clarity, it's impossible to categorize. Is it folk music? There's little doubt that the music of her native northern Moravia (at the time of her birth, still part of Czechoslovakia) imbues the proceedings. Is it classical music? It's equally clear that her musical family and academic training in drama, music and ballet prepared her for a life in that environs. Is it jazz? Perhaps not, but improvisation is clearly a part of her bigger picture, with additional cred from Moravian Gems (CubeMeteier), her 2007 date with bassist George Mraz. Perhaps Bittovà's music is something more easily described by what it's not than what it is. [...] It's an overall eccentric yet thoroughly compelling performance that possesses its own dramaturgy, even as it dispels myths of convention. ‘Iva Bittová’ is a curious and quirky debut, but one which reaps the continued rewards of repeat plays.
John Kelman, All About Jazz

Eine Frauenstimme wie aus dem Elysium, sinnlich, unbeschwert und mit herkömmlichen Maßstäben nicht zu fassen. Ein Gesang, ortlos, zart und wie ohne Anfang und ohne Ende. Diese Soloplatte der tschechischen Sängerin Iva Bittová, die sich selbst bei den im schweizerischen Lugano entstandenen Aufnahmen auf der Violine oder einem Daumenklavier begleitet, hat eine innere Leuchtkraft fern vom Üblichen. […] Diese Klänge sind wunderbar sinnlich, ohne dass sie auftrumpfen müssten. Sie sind fragil und doch von femininer Wucht zwischen Himmel und Erde.
Ulrich Steinmetzger, Leipziger Volkszeitung

Chris Potter's The Sirens impresses a British reviewer

In setting his impressions of this great epic Greek poem to music, saxophonist Potter has come up with a collection of tunes that certainly call the listener back, not just for their strong, quickly memorable , melodic qualities but for the improvisations and group interaction they inspire in supporting musicians, Craig Taborn, Larry Grenadier, Eric Harland and David Virelles. Potter is in danger of replacing the late Michael Brecker as jazz’s saxophone pace-setter, and you’ll hear why as he absolutely flies over the rhythm section on the opening track, Wine Dark Sea, maintaining a sure sene of structure all the while. However, this album isn’t all about technique. Potter’s intention was to tell stories and he succeeds magnificently, particularly on the title track where his slightly Jewish-sounding bass clarinet melody gives way to a bowed bass solo before his own tenor takes up the narrative. A thoroughly involving listen.
Rob Adams, Sunday Herald

Wislawa, the first recording of the freshly formed Tomasz Stanko New York Quartet, is reviewed on The JazzBreakfast.com

The title for the album reflects its inspiration: the poet and Nobel laureate Wislawa Szymborska who died in 2012. Stanko had worked with the poet, responding on his trumpet to her new poems at Krakow Opera. And so, although there are no words here, the poetic spirit is felt throughout. There is swift, regular tempo, bop-nuanced stuff here, like the track Assassins, there is reflective rubato, as in Metafizyka, there is gently grooving, brush-propelled swing, like Dernier Cri. It’s all wonderful. Virelles, who also appears on the recent Sirens album from Chris Potter, also on ECM, brings a precise touch and that acute Cuban time awareness to this date, while Morgan and Cleaver are also strikingly assured and comfortable while stretching.
Over it all Stanko slides and smears, and pops out those notes that have just the righ mix of clean and dirty tone in them. It’s such a personal and readily identifiable sound, sometimes acerbic, sometimes slightly threatening, and then so lyrical and bittersweet. [...] The mood is remarkably sustained over the near two hours of this album – fairly gently paced and fairly reflective in nature. Yet this is not introspective music, rather it strips back any artifice to bare its heart and soul, to highly moving effect.
Peter Bacon, The Jazz Breakfast

An American Review of Panagia by Stephan Micus

It's the kind of music that takes Micus years to make, recording it, as he does, at his home studio on Mallorca, an island off the coast of Spain that's separated enough from the modern world to allow him to slowly, patiently, one layer at a time, build this timeless music that manages to create a tranquil, slow-moving alternative to an increasingly stressful and fast-paced society. Micus may deliver his albums like clockwork, but that only means albums like Panagia are to be eagerly anticipated as rare opportunities to escape the hectic pace of everyday life and experience a welcome alternative to renew, refresh and reinvigorate.
John Kelman, All About Jazz

British critic Graham Rickson on Eleni Karaindrou's Concert In Athens

ECM’s Manfred Eicher acted as artistic director for this 2010 live concert, bringing in the likes of Jan Garbarek and the brillant violinist Kim Kshkashian as soloists. There are marvellous things here. Karaindrou’s style is generally understated and subtle. Colours are muted, tempi tend to be restrained. Yet the music always moves, seems to be going somewhere and has something definite to say – there’s a welcome lack of ambient, moody blandness. [...] Kashkashian’s viola solos are sublime. The most remarkable thing about this CD is the wondrous sound. It’s warm, rich and detailed. I ended up listening to this in a darkened room, endlessly replaying the four-minute Dance from Ulysses’ Gaze. So good you’ll rush out immediately and buy copies for all your cinephile friends.
Graham Rickson, The Arts Desk

Anna Gourari's Canto Oscuro is reviewed in Swiss and Scottish media

In polyfonen Strukturen kann ein ‘Canto Oscuro’ verborgen bleiben. Nicht aber, wenn man wie Anna Gorari versucht, solche Melodielinien bewusst kenntlich zu machen. Ihr Rezital konfrontiert aus dieser Perspektive einige Werke von Johann Sebastian Bach, die Anfang des 20. Jahrhunderts für das Klavier bearbeitet wurden, und moderne Originale mit Bezug auf den Barockkomponisten. […] Gesang im Dunkeln kann also sehr bewegend sein. Was Anna Gourari mit Röntgenohren herausgehört hat, ist zu exquisiter Klaviermusik geworden.
Hans-Dieter Grünefeld, Musik und Theater

Three works by Johann Sebastian Bach feature on this recording by the Russian classical pianist Anna Gourari, but it is her performance of contrasting works by Sofia Gubaidulina and Paul Hindemith that stops this simply being a modern exploration of Bach’s music. Gubaidulina displays a sharply angular and admittedly uncomfortable style in her Chaconne, making Hindemith’s 1922 – Suite Für Klavier seem almost Romantic by contrast. The three Bach works are the highlight of the recording, enabling Gourari to display an exemplary technique and feeling.
Alexander Bryce, Scotland on Sunday

British daily The Independent on the Quartetto Prometeo's recording of Reinventions by Stefano Scodanibbio

Besides being the most inventive of double bassists, the late Stefano Scodanibbio was a sound-sculptor of unmatched imagination, as demonstrated in this radical programme of string quartet arrangements of Bach, Spanish guitar music and Mexican popular songs, performed with quicksilver grace by Quartetto Prometeo. Scodanibbio's methods involve displacing some harmonics an octave higher, and slowing tempos drastically, refracting the pieces as if underwater. The three Bach “Contrapunctus” from The Art of Fugue are distilled into chilled, skeletal forms, ice-sculptures of slow but glistening sonorities. The more populist “Canzoniere Messicano”, while sharing the glacial harmonic shifts, have a lusher, more indulgent flavour.
Andy Gill, The Independent