This summery piano, flute and saxes re-issue for label’s 50th anniversary meanders between jazz and classical.



Label: ECM Touchstones
Time: 9 tracks / 51 mins

Back in May, I offered the suggestion of Eberhard Weber’s wonderful The Following Morning as the top pick from the ECM label’s first tranche of re-releases in the Touchstones series: fifty albums from across their catalogue celebrating their fiftieth anniversary.

This mellow 51-minute duet is a top pick from the second and final batch of albums. It was recorded back in 1973, the first of pianist Art Lande’s six works for ECM, which lasted until 1987.

As you might expect, once you spot that the title is an anagram of Lande’s name, the pianist composed each track and piano takes the brunt of the workload here, with Jan Garbarek largely filling in and echoing for emphasis.

Garbarek is undoubtedly one of the label’s most popular artists – not least due to his Officium collaboration with the Hilliard Ensemble, blending his sax with their choral work, which was one of ECM’s best-selling albums ever. He features on half a dozen albums across the Touchstones collection.

While he is mainly known for his saxophone work, on this release he unusually spends more time playing flute – although to these ears, some of the best tracks across the album are those where he does pick up the saxes (soprano and bass) such as the gentle “Velvet,” with its call-and-response lines, and “Meanwhile.”

When he does play flute, there is an almost classical tone to some tracks, including the summery opener in 5/4 time “Quintennaissance” and “Waltz for A,” one of several where flute hints at a bird-call at times. It is only the freer, more improvised mood that takes it in a jazzier direction. And there is certainly a serene freedom in the longest track, the eleven-minute “Awakening – Midweek.”

Towards the end, Lande takes a solo piano medley that nicely simplifies the sound before Garbarek returns on saxes and expresses tones verging on the oriental, before taking the lead in the final piece, the lyrical “Cherifen Dream of Renate.”

The drum-free disc is sometimes sprightly and sometimes saunters, but generally feels casually relaxed. It catches Garbarek at a point where he has turned his back on earlier, more dissonant, projects in favour of this more mellow approach.

Derek Walker