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April 18 , 2014

Reviews of the week


Downbeat’s James Hale on Vijay Iyer’s ECM debut Mutations

The centerpiece of the recording is the 10-part title suite, which features Iyer’s writing for string quartet, piano and electronics. [...] In essence, it is string quartet-as-laptop, with repeating patters established and changed as they collide and interact with others. The wild card is personality and chance, with random elements sometimes entering the pattern and disturbing listener expectations. Like pebbles dropped into water, these unpredicted gestures set off new patterns and interactions. Occasionally, as on ‘Mutations VII: Kernel’, Iyer will react with a piano part that reflects his more familiar life as an improviser in the jazz tradition. At other junctures, the whole band moves as one, turning ‘Mutations IX: Descent’ into a chugging, rhythmic juggernaut that sounds like it is charging down the side of a mountain on rails.
James Hale, Downbeat


A German reviewer responds to One Is The Other by the Billy Hart Quartet

Was diese Band neben ihrem traumwandlerischen Zusammenspiel und einer hochmusikalischen, nicht auf Effekte zielenden Virtuosität auszeichnet, ist ein gänzlich eigener Tonfall. Billy Hart & Co. Schaffen Neues , indem sie mit stupendem Wissen tief aus der Tradition des Jazz schöpfen und diese zeitgemäß beleuchten. […] Turner brilliert einmal mehr als Klangpoet mit Sinn für ingeniöse Abstraktionen, Iverson besticht durch tiefgründiges Harmoniegefühl. Und Billy Hart trommelt mit Spielwitz – und Altersweisheit. Genial!
Georg Spindler, Mannheimer Morgen


Another British reaction to Extended Circle, the new recording by the Tord Gustavsen Quartet

Despite seeming spacious and understated, Tord Gustavsen’s music demands and holds careful attention and transcends the traditional moody plaintiveness of the Nordic jazz tradition, not that those who enjoy all the above will find it in any way alienating. There’s a kind of lateral thinking present in much of the pianist’s work, in which ideas and styles are stated or implied in a kind of bare bones fashion. And these transform into something else altogether, often in the space of no more than a few bars. [...] that all this happens in the sparse context he favours (and tends to transmit to his sidemen, at least on this disc) is remarkable and compelling. The tunes are nice, too, with the aerated ECM sonics serving the music perfectly.
Roger Thomas, BBC Music Magazine


Le Vent, the new album by the Colin Vallon Trio, gets a four-star review in Downbeat

Vallon’s glacial pace, trance-like repetitions and phase-music-like rate of change bear a kinship to minimalism. Yet for all its modernism, there is a medieval feel to this Swiss trio’s simple, folky, sometimes hymnlike melodies, which seem to float in space, untethered to concepts of time or harmony. [...] It’s fascinating, and accrues more and more interest with repeated listening.
Paul de Barros, Downbeat


English daily The Independent on Pavans and Fantasies from the Age of Dowland

John Dowland’s Lachrimae Pavans – the ‘Seven Teares’, as he called them – grew out of the composer’s ‘Flow My Tears’, each pavan exploring further harmonic and contrapuntal possibilities, but in a manner which augmented the developments with keen emotional power. Performed here by a string quartet of violins, violas and bass violin, rather than lutes, the resonant drones emphasise the despair in Dowland’s work, contrasted with the cheerier consort pieces of contemporaries and antecedents such as Purcell, William Lawes and John Jenkins. The recurrent themes of Dowland’s suite wield a compelling emotional momentum in these performances by John Holloway’s ensemble, at once woeful and wonderful.
Andy Gill, the Independent


The new recording of Meredith Monk’s Piano Songs played by Ursula Oppens and Bruce Brubaker, is reviewed in UK magazine The Wire

Covering works from 1971 to 2006 and recorded in 2012 by Ursula Oppens and Bruce Brubaker, ‘Piano Songs’ comprises four piano solos and eight duets, including some arrangements by Brubaker of work originally penned for voices or other instruments. Oppens and Brubaker are well matched, displaying the required sensitivity for music that is lightly played, sparsely ornamented and intimate in scale. [...] With its contentment to stay within the conventions of piano music, ‘Piano Songs’ may seem a relatively slight entry in Monk’s distinguished catalogue. But in the same way that the uneasy calm of 1972’s ‘Paris’ erupts unexpectedly into a sudden gush of spiky clusters and runs, the polite surfaces often conceal rewarding depths.
Abi Bliss, The Wire