Non, décidément, enregistrer un hommage à George Gershwin ne se résume pas au choix de quelques standards célèbres relus comme à la parade par de bons musiciens. Il y faut, plus encore qu’avec n’importe quel autre répertoire, une compréhension intime de la richesse harmonique, une conscience de l’histoire — comment faire du neuf avec du jamais vieux — et ce savoir spécial qui consiste à éviter tous les clichés jazzistiques tout en s’inscrivant dans une tradition. Trois qualités distinctives que cultivent, depuis déjà plus d’une décennie, le clarinettiste Jean-Marc Foltz et le pianiste Stéphane Oliva. Ils avaient auparavant fréquenté l’ombre intimidante de Giacinto Scelsi, l’un des plus passionnants créateurs de musique contemporaine (Soffio di Scelsi, 2007), revisité en voyageurs engagés le grand répertoire classique pour clarinette et piano (Visions fugitives, 2011) ou plus récemment relu le mythe de Pandore (Pandore, 2016).
The East German-born Stephan Genz, still in his mid-twenties, brings an engaging voice and glowing dramatic sense to this desirable Beethoven collection. Some of the ballad-like songs undoubtedly suit his rich, warm, darkish timbres especially well (‘Klage’ – ‘Lament’, or the mournful ‘Vom Tode’); yet he relishes, too, the lively patter of ‘Neue Liebe, neues Leben’, which, with Vignoles’s lively accompaniment, takes instant flight. The phrasing is nicely sustained, though Genz’s rather self-conscious, earnest delivery can be fractionally unsteady (chiefly in the descent to cadences, a slight overweighting of second syllables, the arching up towards higher notes, and scattered patches of chromatic detail). Goethe’s ‘Es war einmal ein König’ and Gellert’s ‘Busslied’ both hint at the wider emotional range to which this young singer can aspire. His contrast between the end of Goethe’s poignantly pleading ‘Wonne der Wehmut’ and the lightly alert ‘Sehnsucht’ could not be more charming.
The Collaboration between Joscho Stephan (guitar) and Matthias Strucken (vibes) is influenced by the Master of „Gypsy Swing“, Django Reinhardt, and the legendary Member of the Modern Jazz Quartett, the Vibraphone Icon Milt Jackson. Is it possible to combine their styles? The answer is John Lewis Composition “Django”, a Hommage to Django by the Modern Jazz Quartet in the late 50s. “Gypsy Vibes” contains Reinhardt´s and Jackson´s favourites, but also original material by Joscho and Matthias.
“Panagia” is Stephan Micus’ 20th album for ECM, and it coincides with his 60th birthday in January 2013. The Greek word Panagia is one of the names of the Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ. Stephan Micus’ album takes six Byzantine Greek prayers and sets them in his own inimitable way with instruments he has collected in years of travels round the world. “The album alternates sung poems with instrumental tracks and thus has a clearly symmetrical, even ritualistic, structure”, says Micus.
'Snow' is the title Stephan Micus has given to his 18th album for ECM. It is the outcome of continuous work he has carried out on journeys and in the studio since the release of his 'On the Wing' in early spring 2006. 'To me, snow is one of the most beautiful of all natural phenomena', explains Micus, who has been living in Spain for many years. 'It’s closely associated with lasting impressions of my original home in Bavaria, especially the long moonlit walks I used to take when I lived in the Alpine foothills. I've always regarded snow as the essence of magic, even more so today now that there's so little of it and the glaciers are disappearing.' Micus's music has always drawn on impressions of nature and the countryside.