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September 27 , 2013

Reviews of the Week

Renowned American magazine Stereophile is thrilled by the box set Selected Signs - Music selected for the exhibition ECM - A Cultural Archaeology at Haus der Kunst Munich

Like many things musical, what is fundamentally icky in the wrong hands can, in the right hands, become art of exceptional, original beauty; a breathtaking achievement – like ‘Selected Signs’. Intended to serve as mini-soundtracks for the rooms of the exhibition ‘ECM – a Cultural Archeology’ [...] the soundtracks are, of course, the work of ECM’s founder and unstoppable force, Manfred Eicher. If Eicher did not keep coming up with amazing works of art such as this six-CD boxed set which spans classical, jazz, and world music, a well-worn theme here at Stereophile – thAt Eicher has a special genius, a singular vision and drive – would not bear repeating. Here, in gloriously rich, detailed, alive sound, selected bits of the ECM catalog are stitched together to make ‘Selected Signs’ a remarkable, if lofty tour through the ECM universe, courtesy of the eyes and ears that created it. [...] The idea here is simple, but hugely rewarding to the musically adventurous: from track to track, it’s mirrors facing mirrors mirroRs, prisms tellingly turning, new colors and ideas emerging from fresh juxtapositions. This is sequencing – now almost a lost art, in this age of buying and listening to individual tracks – taken to a whole new level. [...] At any time in the history of the music business, few label heads would, or more critically, coUld sit down and thoughtfully compile programs of music from their back catalogs that sire new meanings and contrasting relevance. Ultimately, the success of ‘Selected Signs’ lies in Manfred Eicher’s affinity for bold, exacting music.
Robert Baird, Stereophile

The interplay of Kayhan Kalhor and Erdal Erzincan on Kullah Kuluk Yakişir Mi amazes UK reviewers

Nine years ago the Iranian kamancheh master Kayhan Kalhor and the Turkish baglama master Erdal Erzincan produced a fascinating collaborative CD entitled ‘The Wind’, to which this is the equally interesting sequel. The kamancheh is a spike-fiddle, the baglama a deep-toned lute, and they meld vividly. Kalhor’s background is in Western classical music as well as its Persian equivalent; Erzincan’s background is strictly Turkish, but he has chosen to finger-pick rather than use a plectrum, which leads to a mUch more flexible sound. They deliver traditional songs, and improvise with eloquent force.
Michael Church, The Scotsman

Precious little Persian classical music is available to roots enthusiasts in the West who are eager to improve their knowledge of Iran’s culture. In typical enterprising fashion, ECM has seen fit to record an intimate concert between two master musicians who, while emanating from two distinct cultures, are nonetheless linked by a shared border and a shared heritage that extends here to a musical métissage.[...] Pieces vary between traditionally-inspired and improvised numbers, but seam effortlessly into a cohesive whole. .[...] ECM certainly deserve credit for having the courage to put out this ambitious release and it fits comfortably into their continued support for world roots artists who would not otherwise gain a spotlight for themselves.
Tim Stenhouse, UK Vibe

There is a rich ebb and flow to the music which builds to intense climaxes and relaxes into more pensive interludes. The highpoint has to be the nine minutes of ‘Intertwining Melodies’, various traditional tunes which the pair move in and out of in a fully integrated meeting of cultures. It’s also amazing what an expansive range of sounds and feelings these two instruments can summon up – at their busiest they sound like an orchestra.
Peter Bacon, The Jazz Breakfast

Carla Bley, Andy Sheppard and Steve Swallow’s first common ECM abum Trios is welcomed by English and German critics

Carla Bley’s trio of piano, sax and bass guitar fits her agile, gently melancholic and slightly self-mocking idiom to a T. She’s so confident in her own composing powers she can make a blatant nod towards Rael’s ‘Bolero’ in ‘Vashkar’, and Monk’s pungent seventh chords in ‘Les Trios Lagons’, knowing these will be subsumed into something entirely personal. ‘The Girl Who Cried Champagne’ also shows a nice line in surprise endings. An endearing blend of sophistication and whimsy.
Ivan Hewett, Daily Telegraph

Was für Melodien! Welche Transparenz! Brüchig, spröde und doch federleicht wirkt Carla Bleys Klavierspiel, und beschwingt tanzen die Melodien aus Andy Sheppards Tenor- oder Sopransax. Steve Swallows obertonreicher Elektrobass umturtelt dieses Geschehen […] ein Opus voll unerwarteter Wendungen, mit tiefer innerer Harmonie und der für das annähernd gesamte Werk Bleys typischen Melancholie. Wie diese drei in der klanglich perfekten Produktion miteinander kommunizieren, wie sie Räume öffnen und schließen, zählt zum Feinsten im komponierten Jazz der letzten Jahre.
Werner Stiefele, Stereoplay

British website Jazz Camera on 39 Steps by the John Abercrombie Quartet

The subtle interplay between all four musicians is a constant joy, and the music simply glows with life. Highly recommended.
John Watson, Jazz Camera

Stefano Bollani and Hamilton de Holanda’s improvisations on O que será leave Jazz Weekly’s George W. Harris hoping for more

Pianist Stefano Bollani and guitarist Hamilton de Holanda are caught at a 2012 concert in Antwerp and mix passion and melody, with an alarmingly attractive interplay between the two. Delicate moments of ‘Beatriz’ highlight romantic empathy, while frenetic fingerwork are on display on the rousing ‘Caprichos De Espanha.’ A bit of a Neopolitan traffic jam occurs on ‘Il Barbone Di Siviglia,’ but they dance like long lost friends on the title track. And if you’re looking for serenades, go no further than the lovely ‘Rosa.’ I hope this wasn’t a one-off affair, as these guys play like compadres. Encore!!
George W. Harris, Jazz Weekly