The second recording by Old and New Dreams was, like its first from three years earlier, named after the group. Trumpeter Don Cherry, tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman, bassist Charlie Haden, and drummer Ed Blackwell made for a mighty team, performing high-quality free bop in the tradition of the Ornette Coleman Quartet (of which they were all alumni). In addition to two of Ornette's tunes (including a lengthy exploration of "Lonely Woman"), the musicians each contributed an original of their own. Stirring music in a setting that always brought out the best in each of these musicians.
“There is no more important reason for composing music than spiritual renewal.”–Sofia Gubaidulina. Shostakovich once famously said of his student, Sofia Gubaidulina, “I want you to continue along your mistaken path.” Mistaken, that was, in the former Soviet Union, where the deliverance preached through her devout composing sat uncomfortably with censors. So much so that when she composed her Seven Words in 1982, she was obliged to leave out “…of Our Savior on the Cross” from its title. Nevertheless, this riveting work is one of the twentieth century’s reigning masterpieces.
Tomas Luis de Victoria and Josquin Desprez were not contemporaries, they lived and worked in different countries, and perhaps shared little in terms of abstract compositional style. Yet throughout Europe, generations of musicians recognized them as kindred spirits, and tablature versions of their masses and motets circulated amongst lutenists. For John Potter, this is “the secret life of the music – in historical terms its real life.” In this characteristically creative project Potter - joined by Trio Mediaeval singer Anna Maria Friman and three outstanding vihuela players - explores “what happens to music after it is composed.”
Released in time for the great Ukrainian composer’s 80th birthday on September 30, Hieroglyphen der Nacht features Valentin Silvestrov’s music for solo violoncello and for two cellos. German cellist Anja Lechner has had a long association with Silvestrov, first documented on the Grammy-nominated leggiero, pesante in 2001. Here she plays, alone, Augenblicke der Stille und Traurigkeit (of which she is the dedicatee), Lacrimosa, Walzer der Alpengöckchen, and Elegie (which calls for her to play both cello and tamtams). Lechner is joined by French cellist Agnès Vestermann, a frequent duo partner, to play Drei Stücke (dedicated to both musicians), 8.VI. 1810…zum Geburtstag R.A. Schumann, Zwei Serenaden, and 25.X.1893…zum Andenken an P.I. Tschaikowskij.
Sometimes music is so theatrical that it needs no stage or actors to enlighten its listeners. If such music comprised a genre in and of itself, composer Heiner Goebbels would be one of its most idiosyncratic masters. Along with Michael Mantler, Goebbels represents a theatrical strand in the ECM universe that challenges the reviewer attempting to describe it, yet which is perfectly clear once it reaches the ears. My first encounter came through Surrogate Cities, a dazzling piece of music theatre that remains the yardstick by which I’ve measured all Goebbels experiences since. That being said, the more I hear, the more I recognize the futility of such comparison, for in his decidedly textual sound there is equal room for any and all sentiments to frolic, dance, and weep.
The term "cultural imperialism" is often used, justly, when Western musicians appropriate aspects of third world music for their own, watering it down to listener-friendly levels and giving scant acknowledgement to its original creators. Whereas this sort of approach has been the unfortunate rule, from Paul Simon to David Byrne, every once in a while a glorious exception emerges. Such an exception is Swedish percussionist Bengt Berger's Bitter Funeral Beer band. Berger, who devoted lengthy periods of study to West African music, particularly that of Ghana, assembled a large contingent of fellow Swedes, trained them in various aspects of West African traditions and, most importantly, chose Ghanaian folk themes with utterly beautiful and irresistible melodic lines from which to improvise.
Born in Osaka, educated at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Paris, Momo Kodama is well-placed to approach music from both Eastern and Western vantage points, as she does in this album which interweaves etudes of Claude Debussy (1862-1918) and Toshio Hosokawa (born 1955). Both composers have similarly been border-crossers. Debussy, pointing to music of the future, looked to the Orient for inspiration. Hosokawa has combined aspects of Japanese and European tradition in his contemporary compositions.
In his timeless solo concerts, Jarrett displays the uncanny ability to drop himself into a piece of improvised music as if it has been playing invisibly in the ether all along, requiring him only to pick up from whichever measure he encounters and leave the music to continue on after he has left the stage. This album predates Jarrett’s Köln concert by just two years and was the one that really put him on the map before that legendary successor. Yet we cannot simply say that Jarrett is channeling the cosmos and leave it at that, for he inhabits a melodic space that is tangible, his own. Though filed under jazz, this music is something far more than any generic summary could express. Still, I persist in trying.
This gargantuan package – a ten-LP set now compressed into a chunky six-CD box – once was derided as the ultimate ego trip, probably by many who didn't take the time to hear it all. You have to go back to Art Tatum's solo records for Norman Granz in the '50s to find another large single outpouring of solo jazz piano like this, all of it improvised on the wing before five Japanese audiences in Kyoto, Osaka, Nagoya, Tokyo, and Sapporo. Yet the miracle is how consistently good much of this giant box is.