Michael Formanek: Small Places (ECM/Ode)

 |   |  1 min read

Michael Formanek: Slightly Off Axis
Michael Formanek: Small Places (ECM/Ode)

A 2010 album from a band lead by bassist Michael Fomanek -- the excellent The Rub and Spare Change -- brought an unexpectedly vigorous, Downtown NYC sound to the ECM label. It seemed a rare one in the label's often poised, sometimes emotionally distant but always interesting roster.

Perhaps after being stung by the critical and listener reaction to bands like the post-punk jazz of Lask back in the Eighties, label boss Manfred Eicher was relctant to go quite that far out again.

Small Places certainly doesn't approach the wildness of Lask, guitarist David Torn and others of that period in the label's history, but it again has an edge as the same band of saxophonist Tim Berne (undeniably toned down from his particular head rushes in the Eighties), pianist Craig Taborn and drummer Gerald Cleaver keep in mind the possibilities of free jazz while cutting up highly focused and energetic pieces like the slightly bent-outta-shape Pong or the woozy romanticism of  Wobble and Spill 

But there is also quieter consideration too as on the expansive, slow and exploratory 18-minute Parting Ways where the rhythmic undercurrents from Cleaver and Formanek (with some soft acro work) keep you alert while Taborn turns in a lead part of focused intensity.

The final piece Soft Reality is its equal and opens with a slightly eerie pastoral feel before Formanek's acro work takes it to an almost holy place over a gentle drone then Berne digs into a similarly deep emotional place.

This is now a seasoned working band after being pulled together for The Rub and The Spare Change (which scored a hugely favourable review at Elsewhere and five stars in Downbeat) and they really have bedded in to a distinctive style.

Pretty damn terrific, and again an album that heads towards the outer limits of ECM's admittedly broad parameters. 

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Jazz at Elsewhere articles index

Broadbent, Gibson, Smith: Together Again (Ode)

Broadbent, Gibson, Smith: Together Again (Ode)

The title of this album might better be Together Again . . . At Last because it has been far too long since LA-based pianist/composer Alan Broadbent and bassist Putter Smith recorded with Auckland... > Read more

Herbie Hancock: The Imagine Project (Sony)

Herbie Hancock: The Imagine Project (Sony)

Regardless of what you think of John Lennon's song Imagine -- and opinion ranges from drippy sentimentality to inspirational -- most would agree the song succeeds with many people for its... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Jeremy Mayall, Yotam Levy: Elemental Stasis (Rattle Seventh House Vol 6/bandcamp)

Jeremy Mayall, Yotam Levy: Elemental Stasis (Rattle Seventh House Vol 6/bandcamp)

Rattle has enjoyed a remarkable year, even by its own high standards. The launch of the Seventh House imprint of experimental and improvised collaborations has delivered albums which are more... > Read more

Murray McNabb: The Way Out is The Way In (2002)

Murray McNabb: The Way Out is The Way In (2002)

If the New Zealand Music Awards had a category for best reissue or best best archival release, the exceptional double vinyl The Way In Is The Way Out would be a shoe-in. Subtitled "The... > Read more