FIRST RATE MUSIC AND AN ALT PATH FOR 70S JAZZ
David Keymer | Modesto CA | 03/09/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Colours is a reissue in one 3 CD-pack of the three recordings of the extraordinary bassist, composer and arranger Eberhard Weber's influential group, Colours, which was comprised of Weber on bass, Charlie Mariano on soprano saxophone, flutes and various oriental reeds, Rainer Bruninghaus on piano and synthesizer, and Jon Christensen on drums, replaced by John Marshall for the second and third recording sessions. The group held together for half a decade, 1975-1981, playing live and recording. Their recordings, especially the first one, Yellow Fields (1975), influenced many musicians. Vibist Gary Burton added Weber to his group for two exceptional recordings, and also recorded Weber's best known piece, "Colors of Chloe." Weber showed up in collaboration with Ralph Towner and Jan Garbarek on Solstice, and the sound of Colours, as much as any sound, helped define the "ECM sound," an amalgam of American-style jazz and a cooler European sound that was in many aspects influenced by classical music and musicians. (On these discs, listen to Bruninghausen's long, elegiac piano solos in particular, or to the ensemble sound buildups that lead into solo passages.) But for all of its cooler sound palette, these are jazz performances. They are, at times, as hot as any jazz produced.
The best examples of what this amazing group accomplished are on the first two cuts on Yellow Fields, the first and by far best of these three exceptional discs. On the first cut, "Touch," the drummer and pianist lay down a pulse of sound --it throbs! Weber plays a looping obbligato on his handcrafted electric bass: his bass line obliquely implies the central melody but doesn't ape it. Mariano enters on soprano sax and Bruninghausen lays down chord spreads behind him. Weber continues his oblique commentary. Christensen kicks up the pressure -same pulse, but with hard irregular cymbal splashes on top of the beat. The music flows, is intensely musical, and then Charlie Mariano enters on soprano sax. His solo is sheer bliss, long notes, lyrical keening sound. "Sand Glass" is three times as long as "Touch" at fifteen minutes: the piece is as good as anything recorded in that decade, which is saying a lot, as perfect as a piece of jazz gets.
Weber's bass never sounded like anyone else's. He only occasionally plays straight rhythm, preferring to play alt melody lines along with, over and across the music produced by the rest of the group, with relatively few notes and lots of space inside his lines. His sound reverberates! I said once, I think to my son Jeremy, that if a whale sang jazz, it would sound like Eberhard Weber does. When Weber starts to solo, it sounds like a large, slow, graceful animal keening across distance. Charlie Mariano solos very effectively on "Sand Glass" not only on soprano but using two exotic sounding oriental reeds, the shenai and the nagaraswam. My one regret is that there is no occasion on these albums for Mariano to play alto sax, the instrument with which he came to public attention as featured soloist in the Stan Kenton orchestra and then in an outstanding quartet he co-led with his then-wife pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi. His alto was probably too hot, boppish, for the cool, orchestral sound that Weber wanted to attain with Colours.
The second and third CDs, Silent Feet (1977) and Little Movements (1980), are good but no Yellow Fields. Christensen had left the group to work with Terje Rypdal and Palle Mikkelsen but Marshall was a more than competent replacement. He's more directly percussive than Christensen. (Christensen plays sotile sotile, to lift a phrase from Collodi's Pinocchio, the only book I read all the way through in Italian.) The difference: Christensen is a phenomenally inventive drummer and Marshall is simply a good one. Both albums feature long, somewhat flabby pieces (especially "Bali" in Little Movements) but the level of melodic invention and the lush sound and effects the group produced are still present and enjoyable. "Bali," released 1980, echoes Steve Reich's classical minimalism in parts, kind of a jazz version of a la Music for 18 Musicians (1974-6). Aside from the musical value of these three CDs, which is high, these albums have historical value: they highlight the half-decade career of an exceptional combo whose music offered an alternative course for that exciting improvised music called jazz. The album also points to Weber's later career, not always in jazz, in albums such as his evocative Endless Days (2000). Thank you, ECM, for releasing these fine albums again after being unavailable for so long!"
Easier Access to three ECM CLASSICS!
Aaron J. Geddes | 03/05/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a re-release(budget minded) of Eberhard Weber's first three albums with his band Colours! Who, by the way, are phenomenal! I personally got this collection for 'Yellow Fields'-which is the only one to feature Jon Christensens amazing drumming. I find this to be the best of the three, but possibly only because of my drummer preference! 'Silent Feet', which I have been listening to for years, is inherently a 'perfect' ECM album. And 'Little Movements picks up exactly where Little Feet ends. The musicianship on all three is top notch, and despite my love of Christensen's impressionist technique, John Marshall's (also a member of Soft Machine-don't miss out on them, either!) drumming is also incredible in both style and play. Eberhard's virtuoso bass lines are always incredible as well as the sax of Charlie Mariano and brilliant piano of Rainier Bruninghhaus. Now that you can own all three of these masterpieces for(at least at the time of my writing of this) the same price as any one of these albums individually. DON'T PASS THIS UP!"