Narrante is the highly attractive ECM debut album of Golfam Khayam and Mona Matbou Riahi, otherwise known as the Naqsh Duo. The guitarist and clarinetist, both born in Teheran, have pursued further musical adventures outside Iran while remaining fascinated and strongly influenced by their homelands rich and diverse traditions. In the process they have arrived at a synthesis of their own, finding points of contact between aspects of Persian tradition and contemporary music. The forms, modes, drones and rhythms of Persian music as well its call for improvisation are redeployed, to new creative ends, in their fresh and vital work.
Wolfgang Muthspiel – whom The New Yorker has called “a shining light” among today’s jazz guitarists – made his ECM leader debut in 2014 with the trio disc Driftwood, featuring him alongside two longtime colleagues, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Brian Blade. For his follow-up – Rising Grace – the Austrian guitarist has convened a very special quintet, adding jazz luminary Brad Mehldau on piano and the outstanding young trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire to the subtly virtuosic Grenadier/Blade rhythm section.
The New York Times has praised violinist Miranda Cuckson’s “undeniable musicality,” while Gramophone has declared her “an artist to be reckoned with.” Born in Australia and educated in America, she makes her ECM New Series debut – alongside pianist Blair McMillen – with three 20th-century milestones: the Hungarian Béla Bartók’s Violin Sonata No. 2 (1922), the Russian Alfred Schnittke’s Violin Sonata No. 2 “Quasi una Sonata” (1968) and the Pole Witold Lutoslawski’s Partita for Violin and Piano (1984).
Pianist Giovanni Guidi and trombonist Gianluca Petrella, key figures in what some are hailing as a “golden age” of Italian jazz, found their strong improvisational rapport inside Enrico Rava’s band (see for instance the 2010 ECM album Tribe) and, keen to play more, formed a duo, giving many concerts in which they are intermittently joined by guests. For this studio recording, producer Manfred Eicher brought the duo together with US drummer Gerald Cleaver and French clarinetist Louis Sclavis, for an outgoing set of music which includes lyrical free improvising and tunes composed by Giovanni and Gianluca.
The colours of The Magical Forest glow in this remarkable recording which brings together Sinikka Langeland’s Norwegian-Finnish-Swedish Starflowers quintet with the singers of the Trio Mediӕval. It’s an inspired concept: the Trio Mediӕval, with their affinity for folk music and their unique vocal blend, adapt themselves ideally to Sinikka’s sound-world, which is once archaic, timeless and contemporary. The quintet members, all bandleaders in their own right, are amongst the most characterful players in Scandinavia today, and Sinikka sets them free to improvise around her cycle of songs, built upon myths and legends of the world tree. The Magical Forest was recorded at Oslo’s Rainbow Studio in February 2015, and produced by Manfred Eicher.
Andando el Tiempo features new music of wide emotional compass by Carla Bley, and underlines her originality and resourcefulness as a jazz composer. “Saints Alive!” sets up animated conversations between the participants with striking statements from Steve Swallow’s bass guitar and Andy Sheppard’s soprano sax. The stately “Naked Bridges/Diving Brides” draws inspiration from Mendelssohn and the poetry of Paul Haines. And the powerful three part title composition – which addresses the trials and tribulations of recovery from addiction - moves through sorrow to hopefulness and joy.
The fifteen ‘miniatures’ of this modestly-titled recording include new music vignettes, composed and improvised, by Italian pianist Glauco Venier. This is Venier’s first solo album for ECM, following three albums with Norma Winstone and Klaus Gesing. Miniatures is a quiet and thoughtful disc, in which solo piano is augmented by subtle, discreet percussion. In addition to his primary instrument, Glauco plays gongs, cymbals and bells, the lightly-struck metals creating an attractive ambience, at times like wind-chimes in the breeze. Miniatures was recorded at Lugano’s RSI studio and produced by Manfred Eicher.
The great Czech bassist returns once more to the music of Weather Report, the group he co-founded with Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter in 1970. It’s the improvisational freedom of the early Weather Report that most interests Vitous, and he abides by their old rallying call “everyone solos and no one solos”. Well-known Report repertoire re-explored includes “Birdland”, “Seventh Arrow”, “Scarlet Woman”, “Pinocchio” and “Morning Lake” and Miroslav’s group also plays “Acrobat’s Issues” a piece which the first Weather Report line-up played but didn’t record.
Alba is the premiere recording of trumpeter Markus Stockhausen’s duo with pianist Florian Weber, a formation in existence for some six years now. Though very different in their connections to the language of jazz, both musicians share a deep interest in the process of creative expression: of looking inwards and outwards with intensity at things, for echoes, resonances, insights. Initially, the duo experimented with electronic sounds, also to create the “opening sounds” that have attracted Stockhausen since he first played with Rainer Brüninghaus’s trio in the early 1980s.