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Album Review

Bassist and composer Arild Andersen is one of ECM's original big guns. He appeared with saxophonist Jan Garbarek, drummer Jon Christensen, and guitarist Terje Rypdal on Garbarek's legendary Afric Pepperbird date in 1970, and has recorded as both a leader and preferred session player for the imprint ever since. Live at Belleville is Andersen's first offering since 2005, and stands in stark contrast to it. Electra was composed for the Spring Theater in Athens, for their production of the same name. The band was large and contained many guests from the European North including Arve Henricksen, Bugge Wesseltoft, Eivind Aarset, Nils Petter Molvaer, and drummer Paolo Vinaccia, who also appears here along with Scottish sax boss Tommy Smith (a prominent member of Andy Sheppard's fine band and the leader of over 20 dates of his own).

The set was indeed recorded live at the Oslo club Belleville, and also in performance at the Drammen Theater. As such, this is a kind of classic Andersen offering, in that it features his playing and highlights virtually all of the music he's been interested in during his long career. Over half of the set is made up of the four-part suite "Independency." It showcases everything from the bassist's obsession with Norwegian folk forms, post-bop, and near free improvisation in a trio setting to atmospheric, structured improv bordering on the episodic music from his scores for theater and cinema. The first section addresses Norwegian folk forms directly. It offers a different side of the same kinds of explorations done by Garbarek, though Andersen's are more tempered and far less ornamental melodically. "Part Two" is more concerned with his fascination with the music of players like John Coltrane, Sam Rivers, and the powerhouse blowing of both. The leader's bass alternately prods, propels, hovers, and drives the band into unhidden corners, seeking to allow not only emotion but to give dense harmonic ideas free rein.

The rest of the set contains a fine reading of the standard "Prelude to a Kiss" (at 7:24 the shortest track here). Beginning with a long, gentle tenor solo reminiscent of the phrasing of Ben Webster, Smith takes his time to unfold the melody as Andersen offers shimmering drones atop Vinaccia's deft brushwork. Of the final two pieces, "Outhouse" is a tremendous workout involving modalism, post-bop, and freewheeling intensity. It's pure technical muscle as it meets fierce communication between the three principals. Andersen long ago established himself as one of the best in the game, but it's in live performances that we get to hear all of the reasons why this is so. As a leader he is imposing, but he never towers above his sidemen. As an innovator, he nonetheless remains at the service of whatever he's written, and he understands the value of elaborately phrased statements and economically expressive ones. He is a master poet and provocateur on his instrument, and in the music he composes. This is as solid a trio date as one is likely to find in 2008.


Born: October 27, 1945 in Lilleström, Norway

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Norwegian bassist Arild Andersen has demonstrated fine skills and stylistic versatility. He's performed admirably in free, jazz-rock, and quasi-new age situations since the '60s. Andersen studied bass and the Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization with George Russell, and also played with him during the '60s and '70s. He also studied with Karel Netolicka. Andersen began playing at various festivals in Norway during the late '60s. He was tapped by Don Cherry for his first appearance outside...
Full bio
Live At Belleville, Arild Andersen
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  • $9.99
  • Genres: Jazz, Music, Avant-Garde Jazz
  • Released: Oct 17, 2008

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