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

JOHN COLTRANE: RESURRECTED, RE-DISCOVERED, REISSUED. AGAIN (2018): Some new favourite things once more

JOHN COLTRANE: RESURRECTED, RE-DISCOVERED, REISSUED. AGAIN (2018): Some new favourite things once more

It is interesting – and perhaps disappointingly instructive – to note that the two jazz album this year which have gained the widest attention have been of music from over 40 years ago... > Read more

Portico Quartet: Isla (Real World/Southbound)

Portico Quartet: Isla (Real World/Southbound)

This second album by the British quartet confirms why they are one of the most interesting things on the British improv/jazz scene: and not because they are fiery adrenalin-infused post-bop... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Joy Division: Still

Joy Division: Still

Although somewhat dismissed by audiophiles for the uneven sound across the unreleased studio recordings, previously available tracks and live recordings (some very lo-fi), this Joy Division... > Read more

EPs by Yasmin Brown

EPs by Yasmin Brown

With so many CDs commanding and demanding attention Elsewhere will run this occasional column by the informed and opinionated Yasmin Brown. She will scoop up some of those many EP releases, in... > Read more