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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

CD Reviews: Latest ECM Releases

Pelagos:  Stefano Battaglia (piano, prepared piano).
Provenance: Bjorn Meyer (6 string electric and acoustic bass guitars).
Blue Maqams: Anouar Brahem (oud) with Dave Holland (double bass), Jack DeJohnette (drums) and Django Bates (piano).
(Review by Steve T)
When our leader told me he was going to send the latest ECM releases, I told him there was no need and I'd just send the reviews. I was joking but not entirely. Occasionally an ECM comes through and I can't believe how amazing it is, but generally, it's like listening to paint dry, and it's normally black and white between the two positions, with very little shade or nuance.
Unfortunately, there's very little here for the Jazz enthusiast, and I suspect two of them, and maybe all three will appeal only to ECM completists. In fact, I wish they would do them on a special price vinyl record only to reduce the vinyl mountain.
I generally try to play albums three times before I review them, but when I realised that Pelagos is a double album, I didn't even play the second CD (though I will). It's solo piano and I certainly couldn't describe it as Jazz, so I'm putting it under classical by default. There's 'tunes' in there and I've no doubt a listener would get to know them if they played them sufficient times, but I'm not sure who might want to do this and think it's just an exercise in self-indulgence.
Provenance is a single album so I managed to get all the way through it. In fact, I played it twice, but the second time was because I couldn't quite believe it the first time.
It's difficult to go into detail about either album (or much of the third) since it's so easy to lose any semblance of concentration and forget that you're even listening to music. 
Blue Maqams held out more promise with four musicians, two of whom are amongst the finest Jazz musicians on the planet.
The first five tracks all sound like they're about to burst into something, but never do. Couple of minutes into track six and it all seems to happen and is maintained for the rest of the set. It isn't brilliant, but it's fine and worth checking out for anyone who tends to like ECM releases, guitar type instruments, Holland and/or DeJohnette.
Quite by accident, I noticed the first two tracks total seventeen minutes, three, four and five make twenty-one minutes, six and seven total seventeen minutes and eight and nine, twenty minutes. It also turned out that Pelagos makes a tidy triple album, and Zappa he ain't. Provenance is actually too long for a single vinyl/ cassette album but not long enough to be a double, but it seems ECM are tailoring albums for the revitalised vinyl record market, so a compelling argument for my suggestion.
There's a popular idea in pop music that most double vinyl albums should have been single albums and, while I think they should have been singles ie 45s, there's some truth to it.
Blue Maqams would make a perfectly good single album, not essential but the last four tracks are fine, while the first four are pointless. The other two albums are just pointless.
Steve T

1 comment :

Steve T said...

Half way through second CD of Pelagos and it seems better than the first, but it's likely more to do with anticipation and expectation rather than anything else.

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