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January 10 , 2014

Reviews of the Week

American magazine Jazz Times acclaims the box set Selected Signs - Music selected for the exhibition ECM - A Cultural Archaeology at Haus der Kunst Munich' as ‘a monumental achievement’

Some albums, especially those issued by the venerable German label ECM, unfold like movie soundtracks. The magnificent six-CD set Selected Signs III-VIII unfurls like an epic trilogy without the moving picturers. With gentle shifts in genre and a stunning narrative arc, the collection offers a whole new dimension of label founder Manfred Eicher’s vision, and provides a glimpse into the limitless possibilities of what can be done with the music he has long championed. [...] Combing through this set is a bit like stepping back from a single painting and realizing it is a part of a vaster mural. That pieces as disparate as Steve Reich’s pulsating, minimalistic ‘Music for 18 Musicians’, Meredith Monk’s unsettling ‘Scared Song’ and Ornette Coleman’s classic ‘Lonely Woman’ (performed here by trumpeter Don Cherry, saxophonist Dewey Redman, bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Ed Blackwell) can live together in such harmony is a revelation. It also says something about the program’s curators, whose role in this is akin to that of a DJ who assembles a mixtape. But this is much grander. The curators combed through ECM’s massive oeuvre and pulled together seemingly unrelated strands in order to make a cohesive whole. [...] Full of surprising juxtapositions and hidden gems, Selected Signs III-VIII is a monumental achievement by a vitally important cultural institution. By design or not, this sweeping survey from ECM invites listeners, too, to dig deeper – and perhaps do some mixing and matching of their own.
Steve Greenlee, Jazz Times


Downbeat is thrilled by the interplay of Ralph Towner, Wolfgang Muthspiel and Slava Grigoryan on Travel Guide and gives the record a rare five-star rating

Three guitarists from three different continents with three very different disciplines unite for this breathtakingly beautiful trio outing, which is Towner’s 24th for the ECM label since 1972 and both Muthspiel’s and Grigoryan’s first on ECM. American Towner (now residing in Italy) brings his personalized fingerstyle approach to the table, while Austrian Muthspiel adds his deft touch on electric guitar and Kazakhstan-born Grigoryan (who was raised in Melbourne) provides a classical sensibility on pieces like Muthspiels delicate and lyrical ‘The Henrysons’ and Towner’s sparse and dramatic ‘Museum Of Light’. [...] Sparks fly on Muthspiel’s kinetic ‘Nico and Mithra’. He and Grigoryan engage in some bristling unison lines on the challenging head before breaking off individually for some stunning solos. The two also combine for some tight, cascading harmony lines on Towner’s invigorating title track, which is one of the high-water marks of this brilliant six-string summit meeting.
Bill Milkowski, Downbeat


Leading German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Ralph Alessi’s Baida

In den Kompositionen klingt konzertant gebändigter und harmonisch avancierter Bebop nach. In den Improvisationen des mit ‚klassischer’ Rhythmusgruppe (Klavier, Bass, Schlagzeug) hochkarätig besetzten Quartetts gibt es viel beherrscht übersichtliche Freiheit und Aufbrüche aus fast klagender Liedhaftigkeit. […] Dieses Album ist eine der faszinierendsten Jazz-CDs der Saison.
Ulrich Olshausen, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung


An American reaction to Il Pergolese, the new project of Maria Pia de Vito, François Couturier, Anja Lechner and Michele Rabbia

The musicians participating in this experiment bring together a relatively unconventional set of resources. On the one hand there are pianist François Couturier and cellist Anja Lechner, who have background in performing chamber music together (and recording their performances on ECM New Series). They are joined by percussionist Michele Rabbia, who also controls electronics, primarily in the form of samples of ‘concrete’ sound, and Neapolitan vocalist Maria Pia De Vito, who sings in Neapolitan, rather than the published source text. Much of the music on this album is the product of improvisations by these four musicians. [...] These pieces are decidedly not performances of Pergolesi refracted through a jazzy rhetoric, in the manner, for example, of past efforts by The Swingle Singers. Indeed, they are not so much performances of Pergolesi at all as they are the exploration of fragments of his music through the improvisatory skills provided by each of the performers. One might say that these improvisations allow one to listen to Pergolesi as he might be examined through the auditory version of a kaleidoscope.
Stephen Smoliar, Examiner.com


London’s Daily Telegraph lists Trios by Carla Bley, Andy Sheppard and Steve Swallow, among its ‘Top 10 Jazz albums of 2013’

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 Ravel’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. In all it’s an endearing blend of sophistication and whimsy.
Ivan Hewett. Daily Telegraph