Fretshop Retrospective ECM records day 39

ECM 1279 Egberto Gismonti / Nana Vasconsuelos “Duas Vozes” 1985.

This duo is unstoppably talented and interesting. A great pairing on ECM with uniquely complimentary styles and skill sets. Gismonti plays guitar and piano with skill that would embarrass most guitar or piano players…and he does it on both. Vasconsuelos is the consummate percussionist….the guy everyone wants to hire for their gig because it always elevates the bandstand no matter the music or style. Recorded in the Oslo studio mid-1984. The studio has one huge room with windows across the top to naturally light up the space without losing the control of four proper walls. I suspect this accounts for the vibe of these recordings. Two people in a huge room…maybe daytime, maybe at night, affected by the incoming light or the darkness of the night sky; vs sitting in tiny closed-off isolation booths disconnected from everything in the environment (which they have but rarely use). It changes how you relate to each other and what you’re doing. Isolation makes the performance more intimate and sometimes withdrawn whereas the big room adds its persona to the mix of players and you can hear it on the records. As we listen to stuff more and more, you can hear the rooms on the ECM recordings and their influence on the players. Lots of space in this record, pensivity, and consideration, mashed into muscular dexterity on the instruments. It’s really something worth hearing.

ECM 1280 Jack DeJohnette’s Special Edition “Album, Album” 1984.

Rufus Reid on bass makes his ECM Debut here with DeJohnette’s impeccable drumming and a buncha New York horns. Howard Johnson, John Purcell, Dave Murray, recording Jack’s charts in the Power Station in New York City. An interesting side note is that Manfred Eicher doesn’t get producer credit, Jack DeJohnette does. That didn’t happen very often, maybe only with Kieth Jarrett and a couple other records tracked prior to Manfred’s involvement. He’s a control guy and to allow others to do his thing was not his standard fare. DeJohnette earned that spot though; he’s on a ton of ECM records up to this point in the Discography, probably the most for a drummer. The tracks swing like mad in typical New York vibe in almost a Dixieland kinda way. Rufus slaps on the electric bass during a funk number. No piano and no guitar or other chordal instruments on this. Here and there it gets into a free for all where they break into frenetic improv. It’s all over the place but at its core a very New York Urban early 80’s thing. I don’t really like the record all that much but it doesn’t suck.

ECM 1282 Chick Corea “Voyage” 1985.

Pianist Corea takes a lovely departure from Return To Forever back to his ECM sparse acoustic piano work, this time with Flute player Steve Kujala. They tracked in the Ludwigsburg Germany studio. Which, now that I’m talking about studios, has an interesting control room arrangement where the main large recording room has the control room almost embedded in it surrounded by glass walls. Like if the engineer wasn’t wearing pants you’d know it. That’s unusual and can affect how people perform in lots of ways. Contrasting that to the Power Station, which has a huge domed wooden room where there are relatively smaller windows cut into it for the engineers to peer through. Very different player experience. This recording, however, is sparse and empty like many of the best ECM recordings, where silence is just as important as the sound. Both players are masters at this point in their lives and neither plays in a way that doesn’t compliment each other or the music they are serving. It’s a lovely record. His flute technique, with note bending, is unusual and at times can be distracting until one gets used to it, and then it becomes super expressive and ethereal. Great record.

ECM 1283 Paul Motian Trio “It Should’ve Happened a Long Time Ago” 1985.

Holy Cow this is a great record. Motian, by this time in the drummer’s life, is 54 years old and played with Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, Paul Bley, Thelonius Monk, Lenny Tristano, Lee Konitz…you get the idea…iconic jazz cats. He is joined by 34-year-old guitarist Bill Frizelle, and 33-year-old Tenor Sax heavy Joe Lovano. No bass on this gig but it doesn’t seem like it’s missing. This record shreds, it floats, it’s all over the place in the best possible way. An interesting note is that this record was done on the same day and the same studio as the Chick Corea’s Voyage just reviewed above. Something in the water in Germany that day. Fantastic…check this out.

ECM 1284 David Torn “Best Laid Plans” 1985.

Guitarist Torn’s first ECM release and first ever solo record is a long improv with percussionist Geoffrey Gordon. It’s a rambling affair with more texture and vibe than actual musical direction, which is both freeing and annoying to listen too. Regardless, It’s a fascinating romp through the head of a unique guitar talent. It’s a lovely mess. And because he’s not negotiating for notes and chords and space with anyone else it’s as close to free association as you can get. Gordon bangs along on whatever is laying about and always stays close to Torn as he rummages about in his sonic playground. In the end, I wouldn’t listen to it twice, but it’s worth a stream to see what he was up to years ago.

ECM 1285NS Bruno Ganz “Holderin Gidchte” 1985.

Spoken word against occasional musical backdrops. In German. I’m totally lost. Have no idea what the fuck he’s talking about. Glad nobody was here when I spun this. Might have been the end of anyone else in the shop wanting to suffer through the rest of this long ass retrospective with me. Merideth Monk was at least comical. This was auditory torture. I will say the music- when it shows up- is profound. Think Hans Zimmer. I hope he’s not talking about eating lunch or other such mundane drivel.