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 articles index

Esperanza Spalding: Chamber Music Society (Head Up)

Esperanza Spalding: Chamber Music Society (Head Up)

Because we could safely assume few aggrieved Justin Bieber followers will ever come to Elsewhere, it is safe to write about this hitherto little-known jazz singer-composer-bassist who won the... > Read more

STEVE MARCUS. TOMORROW NEVER KNOWS (2019): Bringing jazz to the Beatles and Byrds

STEVE MARCUS. TOMORROW NEVER KNOWS (2019): Bringing jazz to the Beatles and Byrds

When saxophonist Steve Marcus died in 2005 age 66, he left behind a small but interesting legacy of albums, one of the most curious – not the least for who played on it as much for what they... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Motian/Lovano/Frisell; Time and Time Again (2007)

Motian/Lovano/Frisell; Time and Time Again (2007)

Because jazz is -- as the critic Leonard Feather noted in the closing overs of the last millennium -- the classical music of the 20th century, in it you can hear the human condition reflected.... > Read more

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . LIBBY HOLMAN: Sex, scandal, shooting and suicide

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . LIBBY HOLMAN: Sex, scandal, shooting and suicide

When they found singer Libby Holman dead in her Rolls Royce of carbon monoxide poisoning in 1971, her suicide brought an end to a life marked by scandal, sexual promiscuity, one dead husband and a... > Read more