This end-of-the-millennium quartet session probably best defines all the inherent contradictions in who ECM attracts to the label – what kind of musician records for them – and what concerns these artists and ECM's chief producer (and creator) Manfred Eicher hold in common. This set, although clearly fronted by Markus Stockhausen and Arild Andersen on brass and bass, respectively, allows space for the entire quartet to inform its direction. Héral and Rypdal are not musicians who can play with just anybody; their distinctive styles and strengths often go against the grain of contemporary European jazz and improvised music. Of the 11 compositions here, four are collectively written, with two each by Andersen and Stockhausen.
Norwegian master bassist Arild Andersen s trio with big-toned tenorist Tommy Smith and powerhouse drummer Paolo Vinaccia is one of the most viscerally exciting jazz small groups of the present moment. Its energies are arguably best captured in a live context, and here the three musicians deliver a characteristically smoking performance at the Villa Rothstein in Bad Ischl, Austria, recorded in September 2016. Their earlier concert recording Live At Belleville, was issued a decade ago to rave reviews and a shower of awards. Absolutely and unreservedly marvellous said the BBC Music Magazine. How often do just three musicians produce music as vast and panoramic in its scale and vision? asked Jazzwise.
Box set in ECM’s acclaimed Old & New Masters series reintroduces Arild Andersen’s first three leader dates for the label – Clouds In My Head, Shimri, and Green Shading Into Blue. Recorded between 1975 and 1978, none of these albums has previously been issued on compact disc, and this edition is eagerly awaited. The music traces Andersen’s personal evolution from ‘free’-inclined bassist to bandleader-composer and introduces some players who would prove important for the future of the music – amongst them an 18-year-old Jon Balke on the “Clouds” session.
In many ways, the last volume in the ECM Rarum series of artist-chosen retrospectives is also one of its finest. Jon Christensen is the label's drummer of drummers. He has played with virtually every major leader on the roster, and his fluid, enigmatic touch has graced ECM's most outstanding recordings. Christensen has the rapacious appetite of an Elvin Jones or Roy Haynes, but combines it with the wondrously light, dancer's touch of a Billy Higgins. The nine tracks here showcase Christensen's uncanny ability to adapt, color, and in some cases even drive the vision of a bandleader toward its flourish.
Arild Andersen's Hyperborean is based on an Ancient Greek legend: according to the myth, the Hyperboreans lived beyond the north winds, where the sun god Apollo presided. Andersen has created an impressive song cycle that draws from contemporary instrumental, European jazz, jazz-rock and the distinctive ECM production sound. Andersen's playing is typically tasteful and the compositions are unpredictable and evocative, making Hyperborean another worthy addition to his catalog.