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   Distances



Год издания : 2008

Компания звукозаписи : ECM

Время звучания : 52:13

Код CD : ECM 2028 (175 4923)

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CD, стоящие на полке рядом : Jazz (Woman Voice)      

Recorded April 2007 at Artesuono Recording Studio, Udine

"Distances" Norma Winstone's first ECM recording in a decade is a project that indeed traverses territories, its wide-ranging repertoire embracing original material, tributes to Coltrane and to Pasolini, cover versions from Cole Porter to Peter Gabriel, pieces inspired by Italian folk music and by Erik Satie, a free calypso and more. For all its broad focus, however,b the music is unified by the rigorous control the musicians exert upon their material. This is jazz of chamber music sensibility and precision, by a trio that improvises in a clearly-defined group language. German reedman Klaus Gesing and Italian pianist Glauco Venier have been influenced by Winstone's earlier recordings, but they work with the material in ways entirely their own.

Both making ECM debuts here, Venier and Gesing have been active as duo partners for more than a decade. Guesting with them eight years ago Winstone recognized at once the potential for trio work: "it was very clear that there was a real possibility of the music developing." The work has progressed on several levels. Both Venier and Gesing are imaginative composers and Winstone, a great singer still underrated as a lyricist, adds words that extend the atmospheres of the pieces with a poet's sure touch. Conversely, piano and bass clarinet or soprano sax frequently underline the meaning of the words. The trio is more of a 'songs band' than was Azimuth which emphasized the voice-as-instrument (an approach revisited here on the song "Gorizia").

...

"Distances" was recorded at the Artesuone Studio in Udine, Glauco Venier's hometown in April 2007.

...

www.ecmrecords.com/Background/2028.php

========= from the cover ==========

Distances crossed

A group sound, a group identity, is not always a given when improvise'rs get together: sometimes, despite best intentions, the whole will decline to be more than the sum of its parts. When the magic spark is there, however, musicians know. Norma Winstone instantly recognized it when she sang as a guest with the German-Italian duo of Klaus Gesing and Glau-co Venier eight years ago. Since then, as a trio, they have been quietly resolving how best to channel the special communication they share, developed now through their songs and improvised chamber music and, especially in the case of Venier and Gesing, by an understanding of the regional dialects of European folk music.

For listeners familiar with Norma Winstone's discography the sparse instrumentation - a voice, a wind instrument, a piano - is sure to awaken associations with two other trios: the group with clarinetist Tony Coe and pianist John Taylor heard on Norma's "Somewhere Called Home"album of 1986, and the group Azimuth, formed with the encouragement of Manfred Eicher, who produced five ECM albums with them between 1977 and 1994. For two decades this trio hovered above jazz and minimalist composition, their uniquely airborne and weightless improvisations either glowing like twilit vapour trails, or swiftly propelled through the heavens by motoric pulse patterns.

Glauco Venier and Klaus Gesing grew up listening to Winstone, Taylor and Kenny Wheeler, and an influence is surely inscribed somewhere in their taste and memory banks. But if the late German critic Wilhem Liefland's description of Azimuth music-"very spare and logical, not a note too many or too few"- could apply with equal relevance to "Distances", it is by no means the whole story.

Norma Winstone: "There was a fulfillment I always experienced with Azimuth that I wasn't finding in the years after we stopped performing, but I wasn't looking to put another group like that together or duplicate the line-up. Although Azimuth was about its particular sound, it was more about the people involved, and their ideas and directions. You don't 'replace' Kenny Wheeler and John Taylor, and I wasn't trying to. But when I stumbled upon Glauco and Klaus it was very clear that there was a real possibility of the music developing. Subconsciously, I probably was looking for a home for myself somewhere in a group, but despite the format, there are more differences, I think, than similarities between the trios."

The first clear distinction is the determination of Venier and Gesing to serve the song, its construction and meaning. Already evident on "Chamber Music", the trio's 2004 debut (Universal), it is their primary focus on the current disc, swinging the emphasis away from solos and Winstone as 'instrumental' vocalist-one starting point for Azimuth's experiments - and onto the content of the texts and the exploration of the lyrical idea.

On the opening "Distance", Norma's evocative lyrics, with birds "riding the breeze as they fall / Like weightless wanderers", quickly establish a picture of a fate-buffeted couple and the perhaps-unbridgeable space between them. With a poet's sense of compression, she brings us straight into the tale. Although the tune is older, Venier's music and Winstone's words seem perfectly matched, for Norma has a way of putting her own pensive-laconic-melancholic stamp on things and making them her own. "Distance" is a remarkably complete story-in-song, a mind's-eye movie even, with aptest soundtrack. Right away here something of the trio's almost chamber-orchestral reach can be felt. The entry of Klaus Gesing's bass clarinet seems to imply banks of cellos.

I first heard Norma Winstone in the late 1960s, with the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, by which point she already had collaborations with Joe Harriott and Mike Westbrook, and a season at Ronnie Scotts opposite Rahsaan Roland Kirk, behind her: an extended baptism-of-fire for an introverted young singer just beginning to find her way. Recently re-circulated documentary footage of Norma with John Stevens and the massed ranks of the European improvisers - everyone from Dave Holland to Tomasz Stanko to Derek Bailey - revived memories of that era, and the year they bid a noisy farewell to Albert Ayler. The image seemed far from the focused, rigorously-controlled tone on "Distances"- almost a scene from another lifetime... But consider"Giant's Gentle Stride"and "Every Time We Say Goodbye", which represent two ways of celebrating John Coltrane, and ask what has really changed. Norma's lyrics for the former speak of "wild soundscapes completely new", of "piercing the veil of cloud", of "inspiration in a sound", and she is not only writing Coltrane's biography in verse. If you're touched by the free impulse, it isn't going to go away, although it may be internalized, transmuted.

"Giant's Gentle Stride" was brought to the programme by Klaus Gesing. Klaus describes himself as a dedicated 'Coltranean', who "eventually realized that Coltrane's historical and musical weight is so big that you have to find a door out, step through it, and try and find a more personal point of view."As the title makes clear,"Giant's Gentle Stride" is a recasting of "Giant Steps", its melody, all that now remains, shifted up a tone, and embedded in new music by Gesing based on a cycle of major thirds obliquely in the spirit of the original. Its slow tempo can be considered a rebuff to those who tackle "Giant Steps"as a high speed athletic event in all tonalities, and, in Klaus's estimate, miss the point."For Coltrane, it was an etude. But as with Chopin, even Coltrane's exercises were deeply musical."

"Every Time We Say Goodbye", the Cole Porter song that is the only standard in the programme, references the Coltrane Quartet's version of it from the 1960 "My Favourite Things"session. Commissioned originally for a series of tributes at Joe Zawinul's Birdland Club in Vienna, the stripped-down arrangement feels quietly radical."Klaus and Glauco always approach things from a different angle", Winstone says,"which is very good for me, because as a singer it is really hard to influence what goes on harmonically." Klaus says that it's a point of honour amongst the trio never to play anything the same way twice. It is a policy he and Venier have maintained also in their duo and other inter-related projects have seen them explore standards, Bach, folk songs, original compositions and free play.

Gesing's "Drifter" was influenced, the composer says, by the Frygian-Spanish mode and was in service as an instrumental for seven years as "Fly Spanish Fly" before Norma put words to it. The locale seems to have shifted to the Mexican border now; we half-expect to see Clint Eastwood wander into the frame in a striped poncho as Winstone sings of boot-heels in the dust and rolling tum-bleweed.The piece is in an unobtrusive 5/4, which as Gesing notes "shifts the perception of a listener"without drawing attention to itself. Klaus has been obsessing about odd meters since student days and retains a passion for the complex rhythms of Eastern European traditional music in particular."This interest has been following me for years. Many of the things I write are influenced by it." Norma: "The Drifter' has such a long, drifting melodic line that doesn't go where you think it's going to. It doesn't have a 'normal' shape. That immediately attracted me."

"Gorizia"is named for the Italian Alpine town on the border with Slovenia where ten years ago Glauco held down a teaching post. Venier: "One of my favourite places in all Italy. Simple, peaceful, beautiful. So I dedicated the piece to the town and its people. I was thinking of Kenny Wheeler when I wrote the tune, and had the chance to record it with him in 2002, with my trio with Salvatore Maiore and Roberto Dani, plus Klaus Gesing and the Pezze String Quartet." In the current version it's perhaps the most Azimuth-like piece in the set, with Norma's beautiful wordless singing at the centre of it, underpinned by Glauco's stoical chords, joined at the halfway mark by Gesing's bass clarinet. In this naked setting the group's shared sense of intonation is illuminated. Gesing: "I'm always trying to get to the centre of the music, or inside it, or trying to get close to where Norma is putting her notes. I'm not trying to stand out as a soloist, I'm trying to mix in. Sometimes it's like we are creating a new instrument out of two voices. I love those moments." Gesing admires Eric Dolphy but, with his classical background, doesn't sound like any jazz soloist on the bass clarinet. In the trio he often provides a bass foundation but also works the whole range of the instrument."Bass clarinet is such a great instrument. You can play melodies in a high register and also really play the bass. I'm jumping back and forth constantly between melody and rhythm and time functions. Just trying to play what I hear, really, with a big sound."

"Ciant"is the second salute to multi-idiom artist Pier Paolo Pasolini to appear on ECM within a year. Glauco Venier was unaware of his countryman Stefano Battaglia's homage-in-progress when he put together this piece, which sits Pasolini's poem "Ciant da li ciampanis" ("Song of the Bells") on top of a loose arrangement of Erik Satie's "Petite ouverture a danser". Venier has felt a lifelong closeness to Pasolini's work, comes from the same region, speaks the same dialect. When Pasolini died in 1975, a thirteen-year-old Glauco cycled to the funeral. Norma learned the poem phonetically, from a tape forwarded by Venier-then she could sing it. She says: "Apparently it sounds convincing to some Friulians, which is a bonus." English understatement? In Glauco's account,"people of the region are very, very happy"about Winstone's interpretation.

"The Mermaid" is another piece with a Friulian connection. Norma: "I did a concert with Glauco in Grado, near where he lives, where he took lots of traditional themes from the area and re-harmoniz'ed them and made them into new pieces, which we performed with choir and orchestra. And I particularly loved one just called 'Grao'. I'd just read a poem about a mermaid and thought well Grao or Grado is by the sea, and one thing led to another..."Glauco:"'Grao' is actually a fisherman's melody I rearranged. At the beginning I had it as a very rhythmic tune, but I wanted to open it up more." Hence the strumming of the piano's harp of strings, and the reminder of the instrument's role as a percussion instrument. "I prefer to give very little information, rather than being a general or a captain in the music. I just send out my little ideas, to be able to include the reactions of the musicians." Accordingly "The Mermaid" swims in waves of free counterpoint, three expressive lines moving in parallel, converging, and separating.

Sea imagery washes into the next track, with stranded starfish, and far larger disasters looming, in "Here Comes The Flood". Strange that it should be Norma Winstone introducing musicians a generation younger to Peter Gabriel songs from the 1970s, but neither Gesing nor Venier knew this art-rock chestnut. They have since enthusiastically adopted it for concert performances. The song's composer, who once protested that his own rendition was "over-produced", should warm to this bare-bones version.

"Remembering The Start Of A Never-ending Story" was written by German pianist Hubert Nuss, a friend of John Taylor's in Cologne. Norma fixed her words for it "ages ago, but never really did much with it. The piece is difficult to play, the way it's written out", with a heavy shower of double-sharps. Glauco Venier, after confirming the thorniness of the manuscript, substituted some chords and now the long-titled and elegant piece breathes easily.

Finally there is the unexpected "Song For England". At the recording session some improvised pieces were broached, and this humorous free calypso made up on the spot. Norma had a poetry book of Caribbean verse in her travel bag and pinpointed the Andrew Salkey poem."I had a little melody in my head that I made up for it, Klaus picked up on the idea, and we were off..." Panama-born to Jamaican parents, Salkey had come to England in the 1950s and wrote prolifically in a wide variety of styles and genres. Norma: "i really like his words here. You can just imagine a West Indian guy arriving in Britain and the shock of the rain and the snow and the fog, and the sudden realization: that's why they're all so weird and miserable: it's the weather!"

The same weather has nourished and toughened some hardy perennials amongst the improvisers. But it is good to see and hear some of them thawed by the sun of warmer climes occasionally. This is an interesting and hopeful moment for the music in Europe, as dialogues between North and South open up in new ways, and differences between regional understandings of jazz and other musics are compared and contrasted and celebrated. As they pool their common knowledge, musicians like Norma Winstone, Klaus Gesing and Glauco Venier show us that the distances between idioms, countries and generations can indeed be crossed.

- Steve Lake


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   1 Distance         0:05:42 Venier, Winstone
   2 Every Time We Say Goodbye         0:06:13 Porter
   3 Drifter         0:05:01 Gesing, Winstone
   4 Giant's Gentle Stride         0:07:02 -"-
   5 Gorizia         0:04:02 Venier
   6 Ciant         0:05:17 Pasolini, Satie
   7 The Mermaid         0:04:34 Venier, Winstone
   8 Here Comes The Flood     T       0:06:04 Gabriel
   9 Remembering The Start Of A Never Ending Story         0:05:11 Nuss, Winstone
   10 A Song For England         0:03:07 Gesing, Salkey, Venier ...

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