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GA Russell

ECM Press Releases for New Items

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Norma Winstone


Songs for Films





“(Descansado) is quite possible Winstone’s best.” – Stuart Nicholson, Jazzwise
A creative journey into the world of cinema with new arrangements  of music by Nino Rota, Michel Legrand, William Walton, Bernard Herrmann, and Ennio Morricone for the movies of Scorsese, Godard, Wenders, Jewison, Zeffirelli, Olivier and more.







Andy Sheppard Quartet





 The drones and washes of guitar and electronics help to establish a climate in which improvisation can take place.  There’s a highly atmospheric, ambient drift to the music which all the musicians clearly find liberating, free to move in and out of conventional rhythm section roles and to make impassioned statements of their own.







Nicolas Masson





After two ECM albums with the cooperative trio Third Reel, Swiss reedman Nicolas Masson presents a quartet for which he is the sole composer.  The group has existed for a decade with unchanged personnel, touring as Nicolas Masson’s Parallels, and the leader’s writing for it always encourages creative responses from the players.







Shinya Fukumori Trio

For 2 Akis




 An ECM debut for a unique Japanese-French-German trio, with a lyrical sound of its own.  Drummer-leader Shinya Fukumori, also the principal composer for the band, is an imaginative melodist at several levels, and the attention to timbre and detail and space which distinguishes his drumming is also reflected in the color-fields of his free-floating ballads. 













Copyright © 2018 ECM Records. 1755 Broadway, Floor 3. New York, NY 10019. All rights reserved.



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Mathias Eick



Mathias Eick: trumpet, voice

Håkon Aase: violin

Andreas Ulvo: piano

Audun Erlien: electric bass

Torstein Lofthus: drums

Helge Andreas Norbakken: drums, percussion


                                           Release date: March 2, 2018

ECM 2584


UPC: 6025 671 0242 7


On his last album, Midwest – described by Allaboutazz as “his most well-conceived outing” -  trumpeter Mathias Eick imaginatively reflected on the exodus of hundreds of thousands of his compatriots who journeyed in the 19th century from the villages of Norway to the vast plains of Dakota. The geographical ambit of Ravensburg is smaller, but the scope of the compositions no less broad. This time Eick draws inspiration directly from his family circle, and the pieces, with modest titles like “Family”, “Friends”, “Parents”, Girlfriend” and “For My Grandmothers” add up to a kind of collective portrait, touching upon “all the emotional situations we experience on the stage where we mostly hang around. That is: home.” Embodied in the music, with its strongly melodic themes and improvisational exchanges, are ideas of relationships, dialogues, longings, games – and journeys.  The Norwegian trumpeter Eick also has German ancestry, with one grandmother hailing from Ravensburg, the historic Swabian town. (Ravensburger jigsaws - “3,000 pieces, 5,000 pieces… a bit overwhelming” - were accordingly a mixed blessing of Eick family Christmases.)


“The working title for the album was just ‘Family’ says Mathias Eick, “but once I realized how many albums there are with that title, it had to change. Anyway, the starting point was a wish to create energetic rhythmic compositions where I could use both Helge Andreas Norbakken and Torstein Lofthus as two strong personalities in the family. Helge is ‘a drummer’ on paper, but he’s really a one-of-a kind musician, with a very personal approach. His drum kit doesn’t look much like a regular kit, and the sounds he draws from it are completely his own.  I didn’t offer any instructions at all to him or Torstein about how they should interact or play together, because I thought they’d work it out wonderfully between themselves, even though they’re coming together for the first time here. Torstein has immaculate time and a beat that can really drive a band.  So, my idea was to give him – within this idea of family and friends – a playmate, so to speak.  I wasn’t trying to make the drumming bigger or louder but rather more three-dimensional. With lots of interaction and shadowing. In fact, what’s going on in the area of rhythm is very much like what’s happening between Håkon and myself, where a similar idea of shadowing and conversation and call-and-response is taking place.”


One of the pleasures of the Midwest album was hearing Mathias Eick’s radiant, vaulting trumpet supported by Gjermund Larsen’s violin; the trumpet/violin combination, a particularly evocative instrumental blend, is further developed on Ravensburg. Håkon Aase, the new violinist in Eick’s ensemble, is one of the up-and-coming players of the Norwegian scene, whom attentive ECM listeners will already know from his work with Thomas Strønen’s group Time Is A Blind Guide; latterly he has also been working with Mette Henriette.  Aase has been playing with Eick in live contexts for three years already. “Gjermund did a great job on Midwest, but that was more ‘folk’ orientated. Well, I wanted some folk for this one, too, but also the jazz direction and a feeling for contemporary improvising. Håkon, who was only 22 when he started with us, has all of that in his playing – and he has really turned out to be the best possible guy for the band. He has huge ears, and I’m very happy with the level of interaction we’ve arrived at on this album.”


Bassist Audun Erlien is, with pianist Andreas Ulvo, and drummer Torstein Lofthus, a long-serving member of the Eick road band. All three of them appear on Skala, Mathias’s recording of 2009/2010, and Erlien is also on Eick’s ECM leader debut The Door (and, still earlier, he can also be heard on Nils Pettter Molvær’s Solid Ether). “Audun has a very warm sound for an electric bass player and with his background in soul and R’n’B and his true understanding of the jazz and improvised universe he brings a lot of good things to the band.”  Andreas Ulvo, meanwhile, is “deepening and refining his musical expression all the time, with strong capabilities in both rhythmic playing and improvisational soloing.  Obviously live and studio are two different things: when we play this material in concert, Andreas’s extended introductions often stimulate new creative ideas.”


Alongside the album’s central thematic concerns, another of Eick’s larger designs continues to unfold. On his ECM albums to date the trumpeter has been spelling out a kind of sonic calendar, with compositions named for the months of the year. With Ravensburg, “August” is added to a list that already includes “March” and “November” (on Midwest), “June” (on Skala) and “October” and “December” (on “The Door”).


“August” is one of several tracks on Ravensburg where Eick’s singing voice has a role to play. It’s a new development. “I’d been singing at home every night with the kids. Then I started singing some more while I was making music. Since I’ve always thought of the trumpet as an extension of my voice, it seemed like it might be time to also use my voice directly…”




Mathias Eick has won numerous awards, including the International Jazz Festival Organization’s “International Jazz Talent” prize, the Statoil Scholarship and the DNB Prize. After finishing his formal musical education at NTNU Trondheim’s jazz studies, he soon gained acclaim working with artists including Trondheim Jazz Orchestra and Chick Corea, Jaga Jazzist, Iro Haarla, Manu Katché, and Jacob Young. As trumpeter, vibraphonist, double bass player, guitarist and piano player he has performed on over 100 albums.  


Ravensburg was recorded at Oslo’s Rainbow Studio in June 2017 and produced by Manfred Eicher, and is issued on the eve of European tour.  More dates will follow in the summer, with the band reaching Ravensburg in August.





Keith Jarrett / Gary Peacock / Jack DeJohnette

After The Fall


Keith Jarrett: piano

Gary Peacock: double bass

Jack DeJohnette: drums


Release date: March 2, 2018

ECM 2590/91                                     


2-CD UPC: 6025 671 6506 4                              


In the course of its 30-year lifespan the trio of Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette – the group colloquially known as “the Standards trio” – made many outstanding recordings. And After The Fall, overflowing with sparkling playing and dynamic interaction, must rank with the very best of them.

“I was amazed to hear how well the music worked,” says Keith Jarrett. “For me, it’s not only a historical document, but a truly great concert.” This performance – in Newark, New Jersey in November 1998 – marked Jarrett’s return to the stage after a two-year hiatus. In fact, this concert was the first Jarrett had played since the 1996 Italian solo performances issued as A Multitude of Angels. In terms of the trio’s discography, it slots into the history before Whisper Not, recorded the following summer, and is thus the precursor of this group’s distinguished second period, where they seemed to find new freedoms both inside and beyond the world of jazz standards.

“We don’t bother with concepts, or theory, or maintaining some image,” Gary Peacock told Jazz Times a few years ago. “That’s of no concern whatsoever. So what that leaves is: everything. It leaves the music. Once you get to that point where you don’t feel like you have to make a statement anymore, you enter a space of enormous freedom.”

Together with improvising partners Peacock and DeJohnette, Jarrett glides and soars through classics of the Great American Songbook including “The Masquerade Is Over”, “Autumn Leaves”, “When I Fall In Love” and “I’ll See You Again”; they create their own music inside these familiar forms. Pete La Roca’s “One for Majid”, which would become a staple of the trio’s concerts in the 21st century, gets a sprightly treatment and sets the scene for a surprisingly boisterous, grooving version of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”, a chestnut which once attracted the attention of Paul Bley and Bill Evans. This in turn is followed by a rare Jarrett exploration of a Coltrane theme, as “Moment’s Notice” lifts the trio into a new energetic space.

There are also breath-taking accounts of hallowed bebop tunes including Charlie Parker’s “Scrapple From The Apple”, Bud Powell’s “Bouncin’ With Bud” and Sonny Rollins’s “Doxy”. “Scrapple” is especially exhilarating, with dizzying right-hand sprays of notes from Jarrett, magically detailed by DeJohnette’s speeding cymbals, leading to rapid-fire exchanges between piano and drums. In his liner note, Jarrett reflects on the choice of material for this ‘experimental’ comeback concert. “I told the guys in the trio that for me bebop might be the best idea, although it required great technique, I didn’t think I needed to play as hard as I sometimes did…”

Ballads are also played with great tenderness. Paul Desmond’s “Late Lament” becomes a deep meditation, with Gary Peacock playing beautifully beneath Jarrett’s austere extension of the melody. “When I Fall In Love”, a favorite encore choice, is a as touching here as it has ever been.

“These songs have a soul that can be found,” Keith Jarrett once said. Few will disagree that the trio locate it, repeatedly, on After The Fall.

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Jakob Bro



Jakob Bro: guitar

Palle Mikkelborg: trumpet, flugelhorn

Thomas Morgan: double bass

Jon Christensen: drums


ECM 2546


UPC: 6025 670 5850 2



“Danish guitarist Jakob Bro creates magical music, impossible to categorize”, wrote Downbeat, reviewing his album Streams. On Returnings, the magic is intensified as Bro and musical soul-mate Thomas Morgan join forces with two distinguished elders of European jazz, trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg and drummer Jon Christensen.   It’s an inspired combination: Bro’s watercolor guitar sounds, Mikkelborg’s soft, sometimes Milesian flugelhorn, Morgan’s impeccable choice of notes, and Christensen’s free-floating drumming. These components add up to one of the prettiest and subtlest jazz albums of recent times.


The theme of “returnings” is central. The album opens with a new version of “Oktober”, picking up the story from Bro’s album Gefion. In recent years, Jakob’s trio with Thomas Morgan and Joey Baron has, happily, gained a strong following. Meanwhile, the guitarist had also been looking for a context in which to continue his association with Jon Christensen. Returnings provides this. It also reunites Christensen with Palle Mikkelborg for the first time on ECM since Terje Rypal’s Vossabrygg (recorded in 2003), and marks the drummer’s return to playing after a break of more than a year.  


“I never considered the first trio to be a one off”, says Bro, agreeing that bassist Morgan plays differently with Christensen than in the group with Joey Baron. “In some ways Thomas is a very socially-skilled bass player!  He’s picking up on Jon’s ideas, he’s making the melody sound better and he’s also accompanying each of us in the improvised sections. It’s incredible what he does simultaneously.” 


Bro has admired Palle Mikkelborg’s playing for as long as he can remember. “I’ve known Palle since I was a kid,” he says. “I was playing trumpet myself, then, and listening to him a lot.” Both musicians live in Copenhagen, “and the scene is quite small, so we’ve crossed paths quite often.  A few years ago, we were talking about collaborating on a large-scale music for choir.  Then we decided to concentrate first on more improvised music.  So I called Jon and Thomas and invited them to play with us. We did two concerts together with this formation in 2014 which really made me think about the potential.  And Palle and I would meet, talk, drink wine and play a bit every few weeks, and gradually ideas for the album came together.”


Working towards the music for this session, Bro and Mikkelborg began with the title track. “The main part of that is Palle’s. He had come up with a composition based on the letters ECM and Manfred Eicher’s name – similar in a way to his composition ‘Aura’ that he’d done for Miles Davis - almost a mathematical construction. We started improvising on that and developing it and it became, I think, an essential part of the program.” It seems to contain flashes of ECM history in its source code, and the way that Christensen and Palle Mikkelborg interact and overlap here is likely to make older listeners and scholars recall the tonalities and textures of 1970s albums like Waves and Descendre. Nonetheless, following Christensen’s free drumming, and the independence of the four voices moving in the transparent mix, leaves a deeper impression of music both modern and timeless.  


“I think it’s both fragile and strong at the same time,” says Bro of the music’s contrasting attributes, “and I love the way Jon very often won’t give you the obvious stressed rhythm you might expect. When Palle is playing strong lines, Jon is heading somewhere else in his own way. To my ears that’s really interesting.”


For playing the unexpected in a jazz context, Jon Christensen has few rivals, though one of them would have been the late Paul Motian, erstwhile employer of both Bro and Morgan.  The piece “Hamsun” here, dedicated to the Norwegian author of such classics as Hunger and Mysteries, was also partly inspired by Motian. “Paul Motian had talked a lot about Knut Hamsun when we toured together, and that got me reading the books…This is an older piece which I’d written originally for Kenny Wheeler to play.”  The version of the tune on Returnings is played as a duet by Bro and Morgan.


Mikkelborg’s piece “View” begins with Christensen and Morgan in duo, with Palle and Jakob introducing the theme only after the  halfway mark.  Bro: “This is really a collaborative album, the outcome of a creative session with good input from everybody. Musically, any one of us could be considered the ‘leader’.”


One of the most touching pieces is “Song for Nicolai”, for Danish bassist Nicolai Munch-Hansen, who passed away last year, with soulful playing from both Mikkelborg and Bro. 


“Oktober” was included at the suggestion of Manfred Eicher. “It’s also a piece that Palle likes to play, and at the mixing stage it was becoming clear that this version had a special character.” The tune “Lyskaster”, also heard on Gefion, is dedicated to the memory of Jakob Bro’s father. “On Gefion, we had just touched the melody [in a version more spacious and textural].  Here, Palle and I play it together, and that felt good. Also, my father was a trumpet player, too, and liked Palle’s sound. So, I was thinking about that as well.”


Returnings was recorded in July 2016 at Oslo’s Rainbow Studio and produced by Manfred Eicher. Further ECM projects with Jakob Bro are in preparation. Next up: a live album with Thomas Morgan and Joey Baron, recorded in New York.


The Bro/Mikklelborg/Morgan/Christensen quartet will be playing some of the festivals this summer, including the Copenhagen Jazz Festival. More details soon.




Arild Andersen/Paolo Vinaccia/Tommy Smith

In-House Science


Arild Andersen: double-bass

Paolo Vinaccia: drums

Tommy Smith: tenor saxophone


Release date : March 23rd 2018

ECM 2594                        


UPC: 6025 671 6897 3                                  


Norwegian master bassist Arild Andersen’s trio with big-toned Scottish tenorist Tommy Smith and Italian-born powerhouse drummer Paolo Vinaccia is one of the most viscerally exciting jazz small groups of the present moment. Some of its energies are arguably best captured in a live context, and here the three musicians deliver a characteristically smoking performance, recorded at the PKS Villa Rothstein in Bad Ischl, Austria, September 2016.


The trio’s earlier concert recording, Live At Belleville, was issued a decade ago to rave reviews and a shower of awards. “Absolutely and unreservedly marvellous” said the BBC Music Magazine. “How often do just three musicians produce music as vast and panoramic in its scale and vision?” asked Jazzwise rhetorically.


In recent interviews, Andersen has reflected on the group’s work method. “In the trio everyone is equal. Tommy might play the melody instrument, but he can also be an accompanist, and Paolo and I are the rhythm section but either of us can also be the lead voice… We are all soloists or rhythm section, the three of us simultaneously. It’s all to do with interplay, and as a trio we have developed quite a chemistry. Tommy is very good at listening to the bass and drums when he plays solo, and he leaves spaces for us to come up front again.” This is evident throughout this program of Andersen compositions, and not least on the album’s longest track “Science” which flies forth at breakneck tempo and keeps changing its angle of attack. Smith’s iron grip on its swerving rhythms is as profound as that of his partners and Andersen, equally, is as eloquent a soloist as the outstanding saxophonist.


“Mira” was the title track of the trio’s studio album of 2014, originally conceived by Arild as a “Sunday morning album”. It opens In-House Science, transformed by the momentum of the night-time live performance. The same goes for “Blussy”, already powerful in the studio version, it is elevated to a new level of intensity in the rivetingly dynamic performance here, capped by overblown saxophone.


Andersen’s commitment to burning energy music is of course not a new development but a continuation: in the early 1970s he played urgent streams-of-sound music in sax/bass/drum trios with Sam Rivers and Barry Altschul, with Juhani Aaltonen and Edward Vesala, and with Jan Garbarek and Vesala (see Triptkyon). The trio with Smith and Vinaccia extends this distinguished tradition on its own terms.


“North of the North Wind”, thematically connected to an earlier Andersen cycle – refer to the 1997 release Hyperborean – begins with Arild playing his bass together with a sampler to create rich quasi-orchestral sonorities before Smith enters and the piece drifts into free ballad territory, with moving statements from tenor sax and double bass.


“In-House”, in its full-throated exultation a sort of partner piece to “Outhouse” on the Live AtBelleville set, brings the album to a triumphant close, incorporating along the way solos by each of the trio members.


As well as bracketing two song-titles together, album title In-House Science alludes to the venue where this fiery music was documented, the PKS Villa Rothstein, whose history has a connection to scientific inquiry, the “PKS” standing for Pythagorus Kepler System. The PKS Organization is devoted to furthering the study of natural energy as outlined by Viktor Schauburger and other unconventional researchers.


The launch of In-House Science is celebrated with concerts in Japan, where the trio is joined by guest pianist Makoto Ozone for performances in Tokyo, Nagoya and Yokohama.




Arild Andersen was born in Oslo in 1945. He has been an ECM artist for almost 50 years, first recording for the label in 1970 on Afric Pepperbird with Jan Garbarek, Terje Rypdal and Jon Christensen. In the same period, he worked with Scandinavian residents Don Cherry and George Russell and backed a long line of visiting Americans – from Sonny Rollins to Chick Corea. After a New York sojourn in the early 1970s that found him working with Sam Rivers, Paul Bley, Steve Kuhn and Sheila Jordan, he returned to Norway and began leading his own bands. His first ECM leader dates were revisited in the 2010 box set Green In Blue: Early Quartets. Arild Andersen has issued more than 20 albums as a leader or co-leader for ECM, along the way making listeners aware of talents including Jon Balke, Tore Brunborg, Nils Petter Molvaer and Vassilis Tsabropoulos, all of whom first came to international attention as young musicians with Andersen bands. In 2008 he received the Jazz Musician of the Year award from France’s Académie du Jazz.


Paolo Vinaccia was born in Italy in 1954, and has been based in Norway since 1979. He has toured and recorded with musicians including Terje Rypdal, Jon Christensen, Bendik Hofseth, Ketil Bjørnstad, Palle Mikkelborg, David Darling, Dhafer Youssef, Mike Mainieri and many others. On ECM he appears on Terje Rypdal’s Crime Scene, Vossabrygg, and Skywardsalbums, as well as Arild Andersen’s Hyperborean, Electra and Live at Belleville. Releases under his own name include the live box set Very Much Alive (Jazzland, 2010) with Rypdal, Mikkelborg, Wesseltoft and Ståle Storløkken.


Saxophonist Tommy Smith, born in Edinburgh in 1967, made his mark on the Scottish jazz scene with his first album Giant Strides, recorded when he was sixteen, in 1983. That same year he won a scholarship to attend the Berklee College of Music in Boston. There, he formed the group Forward Motion, and also joined Gary Burton’s band, with which he appeared on the ECM album Whiz Kids in 1986. He has since released more than twenty albums under his own name for numerous labels, including his own Spartacus imprint. Smith has worked in small groups and big bands, recording and touring with Joe Lovano, David Liebman, Benny Golson, Gary Burton, Chick Corea, Tommy Flanagan, John Scofield, Miroslav Vitous, Jack DeJohnette and many more. He has composed for and performed with classical orchestras and ensembles including the Orchestra of St. John's Square, the Scottish Ensemble, the Edinburgh Youth Orchestra and the Paragon Ensemble. Smith founded the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra in 1995, and remains its director. The orchestra is heard on the ECM album Celebration, with Arild Andersen as principal soloist.





Jakob Bro - Returnings

release date March 23, 2018


Palle Mikkelborg: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jakob Bro: guitar;

Thomas Morgan: double bass; Jon Christensen: drums



"Danish guitarist Jakob Bro creates magical music, impossible to categorize", wrote Downbeat recently.  On Returnings the magic is intensified as Bro and musical soul-mate Thomas Morgan reconnect with two living legends of European jazz, trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg and drummer Jon Christensen.  It's a wonderful combination:  Bro's watercolor guitar sounds, Mikkelborg's soft Milesian flugelhorn, Morgan's impeccable choice of notes, and Christensen's free-floating drumming. These components add up to one of the prettiest and subtlest jazz albums of recent times.  Returnings was recorded in July 2016 at Oslo's Rainbow Studio and produced by Manfred Eicher.

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Palle Mikkelborg trumpet, flugelhorn
Jakob Bro guitar
Thomas Morgan double bass
Jon Christensen drums

Bro and musical soul-mate Morgan reconnect with two living legends of European jazz, Mikkelborg and Christensen, for one of the prettiest and subtlest jazz albums of recent times.  
Tommy Smith  tenor saxophone
Arild Andersen double bass
Paolo Vinaccia drums

One of the most viscerally exciting jazz small groups of the present moment. Its energies are arguably best captured in a live context, and here the three musicians deliver a characteristically smoking performance.
Mathias Eick trumpet, voice
Håkon Aase violin
Andreas Ulvo piano
Audun Erlien electric bass
Torstein Lofthus drums
Helge Andreas Norbakken drums, percussion

Eick is in great form as a writer on this showing, deploying driving rhythm at the bottom end of his music and soaring melody at the top.
Bobo Stenson piano
Anders Jormin double bass
Jon Fält drums

So strong is the group’s character and the musical identity of each of its members that the integration of this wide range of material always feels organic and logical.  The trio’s first new recording in six years, and arguably their best.
Ayumi Tanaka piano
Håkon Aase violin
Lucy Railton violoncello
Ole Morten Vågan double bass
Thomas Strønen drums, percussion

“A highly improvised program that is challenging,
accessible and hypnotic.”

–Bobby Reed, Downbeat (Editor’s Choice 2/2018)

© 2018 ECM Records. 1755 Broadway, Floor 3. New York, NY 10019. All rights reserved.
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Kristjan Randalu - Absence

release date April 6, 2018


Kristjan  Randalu: piano; Ben Monder: guitar;  Markku Ounaskari: drums


Estonian pianist Kristjan Randalu makes his ECM debut with a striking album of his own rigorous-yet-lyrical music, sensitively played by a trio formed especially for this recording, with American guitarist Ben Monder and Finnish drummer Markku Ounaskari.   As an improviser of prodigious technique, once described by Herbie Hancock as "a dazzling piano player", Randalu's affinities are with the jazz musicians, but the forms and dynamics of his pieces also reflect a discerning sense of structure, and he has cited composers Erkki-Sven Tüür and Tõnu Kõrvitz amongst his mentors.  Absence was recorded at Studios La Buissonne in the south of France in July 2017 and produced by Manfred Eicher.





Kristjan Randalu



Kristjan Randalu: piano

Ben Monder: guitar

Markku Ounaskari: drums

                                           Released date: April 6, 2018

ECM  2586


UPC:  6025 672 2679 6     


Estonian pianist Kristjan Randalu makes his ECM debut with a striking album of his own rigorous-yet-lyrical music, sensitively played by a group formed especially for this recording, with American guitarist Ben Monder and Finnish drummer Markku Ounaskari.  The trio line-up was suggested by producer Manfred Eicher after hearing Randalu’s 2012 duo recording with Monder, Equilibrium. The featured compositions on Absence are robust, and in the past Randalu has played them also as solo piano pieces.  In this session recorded in Pernes-les-Fontaines in the south of France, their structures are prised open. Guitar and drums subtly illuminate the pieces from inside, casting light on their originality. Among other attributes, Monder and Ounaskari are outstanding colorists and textural players, and they bring out much of the fine detail implied in Randalu’s writing with inspired improvising.


Like much good music, Randalu’s resists capsule summary.  Markku Ounaskari has observed that “Kristjan’s music is really a world of its own.” As an improviser of prodigious technique, once described by Herbie Hancock as “a dazzling piano player”, Randalu’s affinities are with the jazz musicians, but the forms and dynamics of his pieces also reflect a discerning structural sense, and he has cited composers Erkki-Sven Tüür and Tõnu Kõrvits among his mentors. Kristjan Randalu’s capacity to move between genres and disciplines is rare: his itinerary in recent months, for instance, has found him premiering new music of his own with the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, performing Arvo Pärt’s Credo with Kristjan Järvi and the Konzerthausorchester Berlin, and also playing duets with Dave Liebman. There are not many contemporary players with this kind of range.


Born into a musical family in Estonia in 1978, Randalu grew up in Germany. Both his parents are professional classical pianists, and all of his early music training was purely classical. Hearing Chick Corea’s Inside Out at the age of 13 changed some of his priorities: “It seemed to me so perfect that I thought at first that it must be all notated. And it had all this rhythmic energy, and sound-wise, harmonically and colour-wise was very interesting to me. At that point I had almost no historical jazz references at all -  no early Miles, even, no Coltrane – I would learn about all of that later. But I felt motivated to create my own music with piano and synthesizer and sequencer and soon had my first band. By this point I had already been performing classical music for years and was playing at a serious level, but there was a gap between practicing my Liszt and Chopin and beginning to deal actively with jazz…” The gap was bridged in the following years by studies with a number of notable pianists, including John Taylor and Django Bates. A scholarship to the Manhattan School of Music allowed plenty of opportunities to hear New York’s improvisers at first hand, Ben Monder amongst them.


“Later it happened on a couple of occasions that our groups – Ben’s group and my group -- played one after the other at festivals in Germany and we talked several times about doing something together.  But it didn’t happen until a festival organizer in Estonia proposed a duo concert….”


Markku Ounaskari and Kristjan Randalu first played opposite each other in a concert series organized by German radio station NDR. Ounaskari was then playing with the second edition of his Kuára group with Trygve Seim on saxes.  When Seim formed his Helsinki Songs project a couple of years later, he invited both Ounaskari and Randalu to be part of it (an ECM album with Seim, Randalu, Ounaskari and Mats Eilertsen is in preparation).


Ounaskari has played with all the major Finnish jazz players and with many international jazz musicians including Lee Konitz, Kenny Wheeler, Tomasz Stanko and Marc Ducret.  In addition to his Kuára recording with Samuli Mikkonen and Per Jørgensen, exploring Russian psalms and Finno-Ugrian folk songs in an improvisational context, Markku Ounaskari appears on several ECM recordings with folk singer and kantele player Sinikka Langeland, including Starflowers, The Land That Is Not, The Half-Finished Heaven and The Magical Forest.


A musician in the New York City area for over 30 years, Ben Monder has performed with a wide variety of artists, including Jack McDuff, Marc Johnson, Lee Konitz, Billy Childs, Andrew Cyrille, George Garzone, Paul Motian, Maria Schneider, and Marshall Crenshaw. He also contributed guitar parts to the final David Bowie album, Blackstar.  In addition to his own ECM album Amorphae, with Paul Motian, Andrew Cyrille and Pete Rende, Monder appears on Theo Bleckmann’s Elegy and Paul Motian’s Garden of Eden.


The Absence trio is touring in April and May.  For details consult Kristjan’s web site


Absence was recorded at Studios La Buissonne in July 2017 and produced by Manfred Eicher.




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