Last Saturday I was privileged to visit this years November Music festival. The most important international festival for contemporary music in the Netherlands. Together with Dutch composer Dyane Donck, all-round music lover and excellent graphic designer Marc Heijmans and my fiancée, artist Sabine Bolk I attended “ECM Artists in Concert”. Dyane was asked to review the concert for Radio 4’s blog about contemporary music and asked me for some information about ECM. I ended up writing my first ever review of a concert, and got to do so about music that I love made by musicians I deeply respect.

If you would like to read the review in Dutch, you can do by visiting Eigentijds, the blog of Radio 4. For everyone else I attempted to translate the review to English.

 

 

ECM Artists in Concert

 

During an international festival for contemporary music ECM records, short for Edition of Contemporary Music should not be missed. The qualities of ECM at all levels – from musicianship, production, sound engineering to the special design of the covers – is internationally recognized.

The English newspaper “The Independent” described ECM as “the most important imprint in the world for jazz and new music.”. In 2007 ECM won the MIDEM Classical Award for classical music, and the Jazz Journalist Association award. In 2008, Manfred Eicher was voted producer of the year and ECM was voted label of the year by Downbeat Critics Poll in 2008 and 2009.

But perhaps more importantly, the artists, writers, poets, photographers, filmmakers, artist and designers are central in every release of ECM.

 

 

Northbound

 

At the start of the concert by the Iro Haarla Quintet the Finnish composer, pianist and harpist Iro Haarla told us that she and her quintet would carry us over seas, through landscapes to many different places. Sometimes fickle, sometimes tropical. Haarla, said to be the inner architect of his ensemble and chamber works by drummer and composer Edward Vesala, knows exactly how to bring her spherical landscapes across. The room is flooded with peace when the firmly bearded Norwegian saxophonist Trygve Seim committed to a full, warm and silent sound. Accompanied by the in origin British but raised in Norway trumpeter Hayden Powell, the legendary Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen and Norwegian bass player Ulf Krokfors, Haarla’s compositions flow over us. Much too short our trip lasts, but it does make us remember that behind every great release of ECM, its equally brilliant artists deliver their experience best to us in person.

 

 

Craig Taborn & Yuri Honing

 

Rarely there was a more unlikely combination of two great instrumentalists than the American composer and keyboardist Craig Taborn and our own Dutch saxophonist Yuri Honing. Evenly matched? Sure. “Soulmate” Honing tweeted after the concert with Taborn.

They met for the first time that day, in person as well as in music.

The improvisation session forms a stark contrast to the concert of the Iro Haarla Quintet. The tension in the room is tangible. We experience all stages of the improvisation session and sympathize with the musicians, their careful explorations and the surpassing of their tonal conventions, and witness the creation of music. New music, the repetitive patterns tending to abstraction and gentle sounds of Taborn unite with the deeply rooted and very genuine sound of Honing. An absolute highlight of the evening.

 

 

Dimensions

 

From the birth-land of jazz Craig Taborn, the young bass player Thomas Morgan and drummer Gerard Cleaver bring us the next chapter in its history. Taborn’s unerring sense of atmospherical abstraction comes to its full advantage with his trio. The apparent ease with which their intriguing patterns develop, transform and fade away, lead to a long climax that frees us from waiting.

 

 

Chiaroscuro

 

Light-dark and the name of Arve Henriksen’s second album with the Norwegian label Rune Grammofon. Together with drummer Audun Kleive, and both accompanied by the necessary electronics Henriksen plunges us into a full soundscape. As if we can see the sun break on the waves above from the dark depths below. The masterful, at times muffled, sometimes ethereal trumpet sound and voice of Henriksen weaves into a tapestry guided and broadened by Kleive’s timeless rhythms. They share a very personal and intimate journey with us, through strange faraway places and new lands. And when during the encore Trygve Seim sits down and a new improvisation session between old friends starts, the evening comes full circle. Fulfilled by so much beauty in one evening we continue our journey, home.

 

Music heard and seen 12th of November 2011: Iro Haarla Quintet, Craig Taborn & Yuri Honing, Craig Taborn Trio and Arve Henriksen with Audun Kleive. Visit any of their concerts when you have a chance. Buy their music, and remember to support your local dealer!

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