Time for some more jazz, the balm that never fails to soothe me, no matter how sore I feel. I'm listening to this one right now, and just like the William Parker disc (below) it has retained all of its charms and acquired many others through repeated and careful listening.
Only a small fraction of the CDs I'm sent to review can be "lived with" long-term - this beautiful and ambitious project is certainly one of them.
Two more reasons to post the review now - it continues my recent double-bass theme, and check the reference to 'Afric Pepperbird' in the closing remarks!!
Birth Of The Universe; Mourn; The Big Lie; Chorus I; Electra Song Intro; Electra Song; Electra Song Outro; Chorus II; 7th Background; One Note; Whispers; Divine Command; Clytaemnestras Entrance; Loud Sound; Chorus III; Opening; Chorus IV; Big Bang.
Arve Henriksen (t); Eivind Aarset (g); Arild Andersen (b, elec); Paolo Vinaccia (d); Patrice Heral (perc); Nils Petter Molvaer (elec); Savina Yannatou, Chrysanthi Douzi, Elly-Marina Casdas, Fotini-Niki Grammenou (v).
Recorded 2002 to 2003.
Once spoken of along with Garbarek, Rypdal and Christensen as one of the ‘big four’ of Scandinavian jazz, recent developments in the indigenous jazz of this fertile region have produced many new challengers to Andesen’s crown. Rather than rest on his laurels, the bassist/composer has embraced the emergent generation. ‘Electra’, his 16th disc as a leader for ECM, shows just how he has done it. Far from being a case of ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’, Andersen’s own well documented approach to composition and structure receives the subtlest of face-lifts through judicious use of the new vocabulary.
Beginning life as a commission by producer Yannis Margaritis for a soundtrack to a production of Sophocles’ famous tragedy, ‘Electra’ amply fulfils the brief for a modern, fluid and spacious soundscape. Vocalists are brought into the mix more as a choral-like texture than for any lyric purpose, leaving Henriksen’s plaintive trumpet as the de facto lead vocalist. Andersen’s approach to sound layering, and his subtle electronic sound manipulations, often recall the Fourth World music of John Hassell, whilst the ensemble’s instrumentation harks back to that all to brief era around the time of ‘Waves’ and ‘Descendre’ when Terje Rypdal was forging a very personal and sophisticated form of fusion.
It’s fitting that players such as Henriksen and Aarset should now take the places of Palle Mikkelborg and Rypdal to bring their own revisions to this well-established style. I’ll probably be fired by the editor for once again raising the spectre of Nujazz, but Molvaer’s beat programming on ‘7th Background’ suggests that his seminal ‘Khmer’ project may well make a lasting impact on the slow-morphing ECM sound. The longest and boldest piece on the disc, it exemplifies the seamless fusion of ancient and cutting edge materials.
Andersen’s talents as a composer have rarely been so much in the spotlight and the music here is more convincingly realised than on similarly ambitious projects such as ‘Sagn’. His precise, warmly resonant bass-lines sound as good as ever, and although a long way from ‘Afric Pepperbird’, Andersen proves that he is still a vital cornerstone of any new ‘big four’ for the 21st Century. Strongly recommended.
(Jazz Review, June 2005)