Jazz Ist Anders, Die Ärzte's 11th studio album to date and their first in four years, should thrill devoted fans of the chart-topping German punk band. While it's not as ambitious as their previous album, the double-disc, 25-track Geräusch (2003), it's a tour de force nonetheless. There are 16 songs – actually, 19 overall if you count the three-track bonus disc – and each is unique in its own way, whether in terms of songwriting or instrumentation. The three bandmembers (guitarist Farin Urlaub, bassist Rodrigo González, and drummer Bela B.) take turns singing, and all contribute songs of their own, sometimes collaborating with one another.
Norwegian folk musician Sinikka Langeland, singer and player of the kantele (the Finnish table harp) is a distinctly non-traditional traditionalist, redefining "folk" in successive projects. 'Maria's Song' finds her in the company of two distinguished classical musicians - organist Kare Nordstoga and "giant of the Nordic viola" Lars Anders Tomter - and on a mission to restore Marian texts to sacred music, weaving folk melodies in between the timeless strains of J S Bach. Langeland made a lot of friends with her sparkling ECM debut Starflowers: "There are jewels everywhere on this arresting example of ego-free music-making. One of the albums of this or any other year" raved the Irish Times. Where Starflowers brought Langeland into the orbit of jazz improvisers, Maria's Song is a meeting and cross referencing of folk and 'classical' energies, and also a righting of historical 'injustice': Religious folk songs are amongst the most distinctive elements of the Norwegian folk tradition, yet the Virgin Mary rarely appears in them. Once a much-worshipped figure in the Far North she was, as Sinikka puts it, "reformed" away in 1537, so this album brings Maria back into the music. It was recorded in the beautiful Nidaros Cathedral of Trondheim, famous for its Baroque organ heard here.
Bassist and composer Anders Jormin has been one of the more restless and adventurous musical talents on the ECM roster. He's worked with numerous jazz talents from his long associations with Bobo Stenson, Charles Lloyd, and Tomasz Stanko, and from his composing for brass ensemble. This project is off the map. Commissioned to write new sacred music for premiere in the cathedral in Västerås, Switzerland, he composed a series of works in which he used the existing poems of Swedish writers like Harry Martinson, Johannes Ederfelt, Lotta Olsson-Anderberg, and the great Pär Lagerkvist, as well as those of William Blake.
Goodbye is one of, if not the most expansive and diverse collections pianist Bobo Stenson has ever released. This is his first ECM release in five years. Paul Motian takes over the drum chair vacated by Jon Christensen, and his shimmering, deep listening and subtlety add to the excellence and sheer quiet beauty of this recording. Goodbye is more a recording of songs than jazz pieces – at least in a traditional sense. This trio doesn't swing, they play, they slowly dance through the lyric pieces found here.
Bassist Anders Jormin steps out with one of his projects, with an ensemble formed for the Swedish Jazz Celebration 2010. Anders sets his own lyrics – written in ancient Latin – and poetry of Denmark’s Pia Tafdrup for singers Mariam Wallentin and Erika Angell. Anders: “Latin seems to carry an almost magic ability to embrace and express whatever humanity has needed to communicate. The sense of eternity and mystery of this ancient language joined with the instantaneous presence and creativity of true improvisers became the inspiring framework in which the distinctive compositions came alive.” Improvisers on hand are the great Swedish free sax player Fredrik Ljungkvist and Jormin’s highly expressive partner from the Bobo Stenson Trio, drummer Jon Fält.
Anders Jormin’s new Swedish-Japanese project returns the highly distinctive voice of Lena Willemark to ECM – it’s her first appearance on the label in more than a decade - and introduces koto player Karin Nakagawa. In this trio music the Japanese classical tradition and the stark, archaic sounds of the koto, allied to Jormin’s powerful and subtle bass playing, form a unique context for Lena’s sung poems, delivered in her native Älvdals-dialect. Traditions and non-idiomatic improvising are cross-referenced and new paths opened up in these compositions.