Eberhard Weber
Endless Days
ECM 17 (www.ecmrecords.com )

cd cover The German bassist and composer may not be as prolific as his peers, but when he does emerge with a new recording they always seem to be substantive. Endless Days is his first session as a leader in seven years and it is a pithy effort, made on this occasion with an irreplaceable quartet including longtime collaborator pianist Rainer Bruninghaus, plus Oregon reedman Paul McCandless and percussionist Michael DiPasqua. Weber has been creating since his entry into the ECM catalog (1973), a music hovering somewhere between classical and the disciplined team improvisation he helped develop and refine for the label. He has remained true to this vision, though on Endless Days opts for something more essential, where not everyone must play at the same time nor improvise much. Weber wrote most of the notes here and gave the general instruction not to sound like jazz. The result is a haunting, searching sound consistent with titles like "The Last Stage Of A Long Journey" and "Nuit Blanche". The tone poem approach, with its suggestion of movement and general absence of musical repetition, turns up also among the more neutral titles "Concerto For Bass", "Concerto For Piano" and "Solo for Bass". In it's finest moments, as in "French Diary" and "Endless Days", the music evokes complex colors, evasive as a memory, misty as a landscape, as if the life mirrored in it is indistinguishably both blessing and pain. In other words, something that rings true. In general the pieces issue with a reduced 'force of playing'. Writing down most everything in advance is one strategy to remove the vanity of instrument skill demonstration.

Yet then performers must be superbly agile in hiding the imposed order of that writing. It is amazing that many of the ECM label starters have persisted over the years and improved with age in this performance aspect of leanness and transparency, of removing the sound of effort and self-consciousness from the music making process. Eberhard Weber, as much as anyone else, has truly come to embody this aesthetic. But, other than explaining why, this says little about what it actually feels like to experience this music. To wit, Endless Days walks us through a terrain of feelings, reflective and personal, and makes a space generous enough to call one's own, while proffering self-sufficient beauty. As usual for an ECM production, Endless Days totes impressively large and authoritative sound. - Steve Taylor

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