Berne, Taborn, Formanek, Cleaver: The Rub and Spare Change (ECM/Ode)

 |   |  1 min read

Berne, Tabron, Formanek, Cleaver: Inside the Box
Berne, Taborn, Formanek, Cleaver: The Rub and Spare Change (ECM/Ode)

Although you would be unwise to say any particular album seems unusual on ECM -- this is a label which has had Jan Garbarek with the Hilliard Ensemble, the noisecore of Lask and the Art Ensemble of Chicago -- this one out of Downtown NYC is unexpected.

The composer here is bassist Michael Formanek who has been a mainstay of the Mingus Big Band and in altoist Tim Berne's more edgy Bloodcount. Berne himself reared up out the Downtown scene in the mid Eighties alongside such mavericks as John Zorn and guitarist David Torn -- with whom he and the pianist here Craig Taborn previously recorded for ECM.

So this is jazz which sees the contract as open to wide interpretation -- that said though this is mostly post-Monk/Mingus much as you might expect it to be interpreted post-rock and on ECM where the artists place great store on tonal values.

The enticing eight minute-plus opener Twenty Three Neo - which initially has Berne playing a long line of almost North African intonation -- changes direction part-way through into minimalist, repeated piano figures over which Berne plays a driving but almost drone-like passage. It is quite something.

The title track is a jittery affair over a stop-start rhythm section with Berne matching them all the way in short probing notes and edgy phrases as the swirling undercurrent set up by Taborn, Formanek and Cleaver becomes a roiling beast which urges him on -- before the whole thing turns again and becomes a more free exploration.

The ballad Jack's Last Call is a standout: it starts with confident piano chords then retreats within a 30 seconds before rebuilding itself in angular runs as drummer Cleaver drives from the bottom. It is a tour de forcefulness thereafter, although amidst the rippling lines the ballad remains intact at the heart of the playing.

This is an exciting, innovative album which uses many of the stylistic threads of jazz which preceded it to create something of its own.  

Share It

Your Comments

mark - Oct 21, 2010

This is indeed an unexpected album on ECM and to my mind the kind of album ECM should be releasing more frequently. We all know what ECM does well and has been doing well for many years but at times one does get frustrated with its often soporific output. This release is a well needed kick in the pants. Masterfully ranging between - dare I say it - typical ECM vibes, through jazz fusion-rock (all-be-it acoustic) to free jazz, this is (as you say) an exciting and innovative release.

Lets hope ECM continues to push the boundaries with more like this instead of taking the feather duvet option.

post a comment

More from this section   Jazz articles index

SHEZ RAJA PROFILED (2011): Jazz with a world view

SHEZ RAJA PROFILED (2011): Jazz with a world view

British jazz bassist Shez Raja confounds expectation in the best possible way. A scan of reviews and comments in the British press for the Shez Raja Collective (which included saxophonist Andy... > Read more

JAZZ IN PRINT: A selection of useful biographies and references in jazz

JAZZ IN PRINT: A selection of useful biographies and references in jazz

Stastics are easy to refute. Current research shows 87.5 per cent of all statistics are made up on the spot, right? But some stats aren’t worth the trouble of arguing over. So let’s... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

The Castiles: Baby I (1966)

The Castiles: Baby I (1966)

If Bob Dylan accepts his Nobel Prize for Literature (and at the time of writing he still has made no comment) then it is just another award to be added to a long list. At some point it might be... > Read more

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . DEUTSCHE WERTARBEIT: Presenting, the one and only . . .

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . DEUTSCHE WERTARBEIT: Presenting, the one and only . . .

For way more than a decade, the sole album attributed to Deutsche Wertarbeit – which translates from the German as “German Craftsmanship” or “German quality” –... > Read more