on life, music etc beyond mainstream

Hello, Mr. Whistler,


does it rain today, in Northern California? Probably not.


In fact, I wanna talk some jazz. Normally I have a knack for studio recordings. I understand those people who prefer the live atmosphere  –  Mr. Klinger told me seeing Carla Bley‘s Trio live (as he had, recently, in the „Unterfahrt“ in München) cannot be replaced by the most beautiful studio recording. In my small world it can.


As much as I like a vibrant atmosphere, looking, from time to time, at the faces around me, always returning to the sound, I prefer sitting alone in the dark and listening to an album, from start to end, with all the elements  of an artificial studio ambience. (How interesting to be at home in a house with a real recording studio, your shangri-la, so to speak, Brian!) When I fall in love with such a recording, Manfred Eicher‘s production of Carla Bley‘s penultimate album („Trios“) is a good case in point –  the room is vanishing anyway.


Oh, I had my good deal of fabulous live experiences,  the „American“ quartet of Keith Jarrett in Nürnberg 1976, or Byard Lancaster III  in the Theatre de Mouffetard in Paris, 1974, with Steve McCall on drums. These two always spring to mind at first. But, yep, I prefer the kind of privacy that makes listening a more intimate experience. Now sometimes it happens that I can’t resist the thrill of a live recording, at home.


That happened yesterday night. Oh, my gosh. Now have a look at some of the titles, (btw, I‘m sorry you have to wait till September 20 to give this your undivided attention, via Tidal, probably): The Man I Love, All The Things You Are, Im Getting Sentimental Over You. This is not my daily bread, and no part of my „holy“ grail of classic tunes. Honestly, when we would have 1966, a rainy evening  in London, and Stan Getz would play Ronnie Scott‘s Club (at the peak of his powers), and The Kinks at The Marquee (a bit drunk and ready for harsh words), I wouldn‘t think twice and be ready for Mr Ray Davies to give me the goose skin of my life.


But what the hell was that: I listened to that forthcoming album with all those evergreens and, and the music stopped me in the tracks. I was tired, oh so tired, nevertheless I always wanted to stay in the moment, from applause to applause, and suddenly I was strangely awake, fully there –  it all happened in January 2017 at the Village Vanguard. I know, a surprisingly small club with warm acoustics, I had been there, virtually, when I was a teenager sucking in the magic of Keith Jarrett‘s „Fort Yawuh“ without end.






So, here we go, I listened to that old-fashioned stuff, and the way the quartet nailed it, was full of wit, charm, spell, awe, wonder, suspense, drive, diversion, passion, humour, everything. Oh, they didn‘t nail it, wrong word, they opened it up, and let the dust dance that had settled on the tunes since the time they had been hailed as fucking standards. Manfred Eicher is the executive producer here, the album is called „Common Practice“ (a title that made me laugh after midnight), and it‘s from the Ethan Iverson Quartet with Tom Harrell. Ben Street plays double bass,  and Eric McPherson drums. Listen, for example, at this drummer’s play, so full of inventions and side steps: playing in the tradition, kind of, doesn’t mean to fulfill the usual expectations. A wonderful way to start the autumnal season.




This entry was posted on Samstag, 21. September 2019 and is filed under "Blog". You can follow any responses to this entry with RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. Michael Engelbrecht:

    I will give this album a kind of premiere in my edition of JazzFacts at the Deutschlandfunk, on September 14th. At one point of that hour there will – possibly – be three trumpet players in sequence, Avishai Cohen, Tom Harrell, and a guy called Miles Davis (a lost album). The album with Avishai Cohen is another work of excellence, a duo with Yonathan Avishai, piano and trumpet, titled „Playing The Room“:)

  2. Brian Whistler:

    I am the first guy to say, Yeah- I love a great recording and understand the intimacy of listening deeply over my just so so living room system (or in the studio, which sounds better but is somehow less inviting,) as compared to the live setting. I know that as of late I have chosen to review live shows as opposed to recordings- doesn’t in any way denigrate my passion for great recordings, live or otherwise. The Bley trio being a case in point- the 2nd one is brilliant and has been a staple around here. As are 3 of the Andy Sheppard albums.

    Because of the openness of a live show, especially when improvisation is involved, I still love the electric feeling that can fill the room with anticipation and here and now excitement. With a recording, even if live, once you’ve heard it a few times, it’s still enjoyable, but its not the same experience – now you know where things are going and this yields a certain satisfaction and enjoyment one can’t take away from that first go round. So something’s lost and something’s gained.

    The Iverson duo is a case in point. I wasn’t that familiar with the album Temporary Kings and saw them live @ SF Jazz. Maybe it was the performance- the music seemed a little obtuse on first listen. Or maybe it was the fact that my not all that enthusiastic girlfriend didn’t dig them… Later I began to listen to that album in earnest and it opened up for me. Then I saw them again @ Healdsburg Jazz Festival in June. This time I was amazed by how much these two had grown in terms of clarity of interactions- far beyond that recording. New tunes sparkled with humor and spontaneity. It is clear these two have learned much about playing together from playing live. The 2nd time was an entirely engaging experience for me.I hope they make a 2nd duo recording.

    I have heard about the new album with Tom Harrell, an artist I have admired for many years- great player and a prolific composer with a compelling life story. I am really looking forwards to hearing this album and am hoping Manfred Eicher will give Harrell a shot at recording an album as a leader.

    Also looking forward to that Avishai Cohen record. Yonathan Avishai has become one of my favorite pianists.

  3. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Copy that.

    It‘s not blaspemic to say, Miles‘ album is by far the weakest of the three ones involving trumpet players, but surely interesting, mostly for historic reasons, and some great moments.

  4. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Which Bley Trio album do you mean, there are quote a lot around, one of my favourites: VIRTUOSI (IAI)

  5. Brian Whistler:

    In this instance I was thinking of the trio I saw in June, the one with Carla, Steve and Andy. The album I really love is titled, “Trios”.

  6. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Ah, misunderstood, I thought of PAUL Bley, an echo of my ECM night. There will be a third CARLA BLEY TRIO ALBUM, Manfred Eicher yesterday told me, probably out next year, and he was totally enthusiastic about it. He has recently produced it. That I call great news.

  7. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Returning to the ETHAN IVERSON QUARTET, everybody plays utterly brilliant, i stumbled from surprise to surprise, and the were not doing it in the good groovy smile mood …

  8. Brian Whistler:

    I really want to hear this one.

  9. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Im sure you will share my enthusiasm …

  10. Michael Engelbrecht:

    In his own words:

    “The first night I came to New York in the fall of 1991, I was an 18-year-old from Wisconsin. I had never been to the big city, but I knew I loved jazz. That night, I went to the Village Vanguard, and there was a quintet there – with Joe Lovano, Tom Harrell, John Abercrombie, Rufus Reid and Ed Blackwell – playing great jazz. It was one of those unforgettable nights. My new album, Common Practice, is a love letter to that kind of straight-ahead New York City jazz. It features Mr. Harrell on trumpet – he’s a master musician of an elder generation – and two contemporaries of mine, Ben Street and Eric McPherson, who are dedicated swingers. This album is about swinging, about playing standards. I’ve been involved with a lot of modern jazz that’s about deconstructing the history. I think it’s really important to do that – you have to find something new. If you’re not going to look for something new, maybe you shouldn’t even be involved in the arts… But at some point, many artists try to reassess the tradition and their heritage, and this album is about that tradition, that heritage.”

    Ethan Iverson

    But „straightahead“ is here „all around curves“.

  11. Michael Engelbrecht:

    The record was released yesterday – so, reason enough to fast-forward this text from last month! With another title – too much Brians around :)

  12. Michael Engelbrecht:

    From my edition of JazzFacts, Deutschlandfunk:

    Mit dem 73-jährigen Tom Harrell wird nun der dritte Trompeter in Folge zu hören sein, aus einem Power Spot der New Yorker Jazzclubszene, dem Village Vanguard. Da darf schon mal die Bezeichnung „lebende Legende“ benutzt werden, wichtiger aber als seine unzähligen Wegstationen und Lebenskrisen ins Feld zu führen, ist es, ihm hier, auf COMMON PRACTICE, ungebrochene Vitalität zu attestieren.

    Tom Harrell ist Teil des Ethan Iverson Quartetts – neben dem Pianisten wirken auch noch Ben Street am Bass und Eric McPherson am Schlagzeug mit. Nur ganz selten in den letzten Jahren ist mir ein Album begegnet, das randvoll mit Standards des American Songbook ist, und dabei so mitreissend, so fesselnd ist.

    Der Titel COMMON PRACTICE, gewöhnliche Praxis, scheint mir pure Untertreibung zu sein. Solcher Jazz firmiert gemeinhin unter dem Attribut STRAIGHTAHEAD JAZZ, aber was bitteschön ist an dieser sich munter verzweigenden, an Drehungen und Wendungen überreichen Veranstaltung, bitteschön, geradlinig?! Es darf gestaunt werden.

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