Marcin Wasilewski Trio, Misha Alperin, Norma Winstone, and Keitil Bjørnstad / Terje Rypdal
Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., July 18, 2008
Nocturnal austerity crystallizes a quartet of recent ECM releases, wintry sunlight bleaching the title track to January by the Marcin Wasilewski Trio. The pianist's career birthed into a mid-1990s meet with Polish trumpet sage Tomasz Stanko, alongside double bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz and drummer Michal Miskiewicz, when he was only 16. On Wasilewski's debut as bandleader, the second solo disc for the threesome, the tableau grooves sparingly Stankonian, missing the brass-man's "predatory lyricism," but opening Prince's "Diamonds and Pearls" like an oyster. Ukrainian-born Oslo export Misha Alperin offers Her First Dance, first in a decade for ECM, with German cellist Anja Lechner and Russian trumpeter Arkady Shilkloper helping channel the classical specters of their comrade's beloved Moldavian folk music. Alperin's haunted playroom plink on opener "Vayan" sets an arctic stage for Shilkloper's owlish cry on the succeeding title track, graceful as Degas at the Bolshoi, before restating the theme on the back end of "Jump's" digital dexterity. "Via Dolorosa" leads back to the dark nursery at the close, midsection vaguely wan, Alperin nevertheless a Polar bloc of glacial standing. Native London bird Norma Winstone also skates back to the label fold after a 10 spot, the 1960s vocal chamber music improv pioneer a veteran of ECM's exploration of inner and outré visions over the following two decades. Winstone's backing, Italian pianist Glauco Venier and German clarinetist and soprano sax-man Klaus Gesing, colors delicately around her tart, stately call on Distances – Anita O'Day meets Roberta Flack. A cover of Peter Gabriel's "Here Comes the Flood" berths the rainbow. Norwegian duo Ketil Bjørnstad and Terje Rypdal alternate Life in Leipzig, Germany, between the former's ivory waterfalls ("The Sea," parts II, V & IX) and the latter's guitar cauterizations ("Easy Now"). Two longterm ECM all-stars, their fire and rain pools alight "By the Fjord."