There's a subtle sophistication at work on Mats Eilertsen's ECM 'Rubicon' debut. His bass has already graced 12 previous ECM sessions of other artists as produced by Manfred Eicher, but now, just like Julius Caesar in 49 B.C., whose army crossed the Rubicon River knowing it was too late to turn back, Mats has laid the gauntlet down. His septet is rather wondrous. And there's no looking back.
Somewhere deep in the south of France last summer, French violinist Dominique Pifarely convened with legendary ECM guru Manfred Eicher to make his music more jazz-like. Combining Antonin Rayon's piano, Bruno Chevillon's double-bass and the scattershot drumming of the ingenious Francois Merville, 'Trace Provisoire' was born, the jazz was added, but the esoteric classical refrains lingered on.
In 2013, Ralph Alessi's ECM debut as a leader, 'Baida,' gave Wayne Shorter's 'Without A Net' a run for its money as best of the year. The trumpeter has followed up 'Baida' with 'Quiver.' Gary Versace replaces Jason Moran on piano. The rhythm section of double bassist Drew Gress and drummer Nasheet Waits stays the same. But 'Quiver' ain't Baida. It's too gloomy.
The mournful sad tones of Avishai of the Cohens liken the leader to Miles Davis: muted, underscored with piano/bass/drums plus tenor sax, and filled with a longing that won't ever go away. The sibling Cohens of Israel-clarinetist/saxophonist sister Anat, sax man brother Yuval and trumpeter Avishai-could be construed to be like the Marsalis family of New Orleans, the Heaths of Philly or the Joneses of Detroit. The bustling metropolis of Tel Aviv was where they grew to fruition as The 3 Cohens Sextet. Now, with 'Into The Silence' (ECM), Avishai has put his grief over the death of their father into music.
The 'Wild Dance' (ECM) of Enrico Rava has Italy's top trumpeter adding trombonist Gianluca Petrella to his piano-less trumpet/bass/drums/guitar quartet for a free, swinging and post-bop session that recalls Rava's '70s albums with guitarist John Abercrombie.
Don't be put off by the ambient nature of British saxophonist Andy Sheppard's new quartet. He's added Norwegian guitarist Eivind Aarset to his existing Trio Libero, and for his third ECM CD, 'Surrounded By Sea,' he's gone totally atmospheric and haunting.