Piano Nights (CD)

Gorgeous, glacial ambient jazz textures from these masters of their own genre makes for peacefully ominous listening.

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Forever Young (CD)

On his third release for ECM, the Norwegian guitarist leads a quintet of musicians rounded out by his old friend, saxophonist Trygve Seim, and the Marcin Wasilewski trio, a group of Polish players whose understated interplay between bass, piano, and drums is decidedly experimental while always remaining melodic, emotive, and relatively gentle. As a group, they produce a soft but not smooth and occasionally melancholic chamber jazz in a very ECM style. The ensemble can count themselves lucky to have ECM founder Manfred Eicher manning the boards on this release; it sounds stunning in its clarity and while Young's deft playing stands out, it's not mixed unreasonably high or given undue space. This is, after all, the music of a group, no matter whose name gets top billing. Young and Seim often come together in exquisite syncopation, embarking on snaking, dancing melodies like ribbons caught on the wind, ever so often propelling themselves off the peaks of the Wasilewski group's shuffling, tumbling rhythm section, experimental but always in time, providing a ground when it's needed and spreading out when there's room. Despite the tightness of the compositions, the players all improvise and it seems they have fun doing it, crafting lilting, swinging experiences out of the song structures variously owing themselves to the ECM of the '70s and Brazillian jazz.

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Last Dance [Import] (CD)

Four years after Jasmine, their last collaboration as a duo, these two monsters of American jazz have returned with an album of what hopefully won't be the literal Last Dance of its title. As usual, and especially in such close and friendly quarters, both players are fine listeners and relational performers, one complementing the other with rhythm to their lyricism and vice versa. Because the record is just piano and upright bass, the mood is relatively quiet, contemplative, and wistful. Quietly emotional standards from the classic American songbook are augmented with Bud Powell and Thelonius Monk, making this album similar to Jasmine but slightly more adventurous and, at times, even upbeat. This is an album by two absolute master performers who, at 69 and 76, show no signs of letting up their commitment to jazz as the uniquely American artform it is and that they clearly both still believe it can and will be.

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