Fretshop Retrospective ECM records day 37

ECM 1267 Chick Corea “Children’s Songs” 1984.

I’ve known this record a long time. Its been one of my favorite solo piano recordings. 20 numbered songs written by Corea with simple elegant themes. Short and lovely. I could listen to this on endless repeat. It’s not that it breaks any new ground or pushes anywhere or causes any disturbance at all, it’s lovely melodies that always seem to sound fresh listen after listen. Musical comfort food. Worth exploration.

ECM 1269 Dave Holland Quintet “Jumpin In” 1984.

Swing. Lots of it. Kenny Wheeler, trumpet, pocket trumpet, cornet, flugelhorn; Julian Priester, trombone; Steve Coleman, alto sax, flute; Dave Holland, bass, cello; Steve Ellington, drums, all flew to the Ludwigsburg studio to lay down these barn burners Fall of 1983. Great compositions and playing throughout. Holland shows why everyone calls him for gigs, as he rips through tune after tune. Old school bebop kinda vibe through a lot of it, recalling Miles quintets from decades earlier except for a lack of chordal instruments. Instead of piano or guitar, Holland relies on horn arrangements to provide chordal references. Not a new concept, but expertly presented here. Nice set.

ECM 1270 Steve Tibbets “Safe Journey” 1984.

Right outta the box, Tibbets turns up the guitar and shreds with heavy distortion and serious rock attitude. Unusual way to open an ECM set, but fun for me, I love that. He settles into the rest of the tracks with a more world music ambient vibe. It’s lovely and moody. Reminds me of David Torn or Terje Rypdal. Interesting to note it was recorded in St. Paul Minnesota. Must have been a home studio or local studio project, not the usual thing for ECM. They tend to use one of three or four places, favoring studios in Ludwigsburg Germany and Oslo Norway. There Eicher meets with the act and gives them three days, two to lay down tracks and a third to mix. Wonder if they bought the tapes here rather than following the usual ECM thing. Regardless, great record. Really great. Look this one up.

ECM 1271 Pat Metheny “Rejoicing” 1984.

Metheny is joined by New Yorker Charlie Haden on bass, and LA legend and Ornette Coleman heavy since the late 50’s, Billy Higgins on drums. Higgins resume reads like a who’s who of Blue Note and Impulse records; it’s easy to tell why here on this set. Tracked at the Power Station in New York late 1983, It opens up a calm and beautiful record then morphs into a seriously outside free jazz improv. The arco bass with guitar synth at the end is downright heavy. It never loses itself or runs off the rails though; the ensemble is very close knit with intimate interplay between the players. It swings like mad and is more straight-ahead jazz than the Metheny group records with Lyle Mays that fired up electric jazz palates across the country at this time, and its way more outside than any of those records would dare to go either. I never tire of Haden’s bass. Teamed up with Higgins the vibe is telepathic. Dig this record a lot.

ECM 1272 John Abercrombie “Night” 1984.

Abercrombie stretches into new turf with Jan Hammer on Hammond B3 and other Keys, Jack DeJohnette on drums, and Mike Brecker on sax. Recorded at the Power Station in New York. Brecker shreds, Hammer goes full-on Prog rock, and DeJohnette continues his role as Musical Chameleon, playing a myriad of styles perfectly as if that’s the only thing he plays his whole life. The similarities between Abercrombie and Metheny are palpable listening to them back to back like this. Essentially an Organ quartet with sax rather than organ trio, Hammer anchors these tracks solidly, not in typical organ trio fashion but still maintaining the bassline one way or another. Fun romp.

ECM 1273 Art Ensemble of Chicago “The Third Decade” 1984.

For the kings of outside the box music, this set is the most inside thing I’ve heard yet from them. Apparently their last ECM release. You have to be in the mood for their work. The idea is there is music in cacophony, that the sounds of traffic and construction and subway trains could be construed as noise or music depending on your point of view. Their improvisations are intense, sometimes very discordant and grating, sometimes pretty and unique. There is all the above on this disc and more, even R&B, Bebop and other mixed “mainstream” sounds. Lester Bowie’s last record has a similar breadth of style and expression and he is here too with his longstanding ensemble gig. This group are brilliant and innovative. Not my cuppa tea most days but their recordings can be the best examples of that kind of material. Maybe not this one, but The Bell Piece sure is up there with all the rest.

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