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Album Review

This three-album retrospective of bassist Eberhard Weber’s group, Colours, recorded between 1975 and 1980, is striking musically, historically, culturally, and creatively. As American and British jazz musicians were employing electric instruments to create edgier, funkier, and more stridently knotty music, many Northern Europeans were exploring an entirely different sonic universe: creating another pathway in jazz. Weber's work would help to define the ECM imprint's sound. Weber founded Colours in 1974 with saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist Charlie Mariano, keyboardist Rainer Bruninghaus, and drummer Jon Christensen — to be replaced in by John Marshall in 1977. Its 1975 debut, Yellow Fields, put painterly touches into a sonic kaleidescope that explored tonal and harmonic realms with acute compositional and improvisational attention to the space that surrounded jazz. No matter how complex — as on “Sand-Glass” — it remains crystalline, warm, and engaging. 1977’s Silent Feet is the group’s greatest moment. They gelled on these three Weber-composed pieces in a manner that seems truly telepathic. Compositions like “Seriously Deep” are harmonically labyrinthine, but they engage improvisation within each tune’s architectural framework. Weber's bass solo is among the most beautiful he ever recorded; Bruninghaus’ Rhodes work is outstanding as well, revelatory actually. Little Movements, issued in 1980, was the beginning of Weber’s deep fascination with classical composition. Its first track, “The Last Stage of a Long Journey,” was prophetic in that it would be the group’s final album. The pieces here — with the exception of Bruninghaus’ masterpiece “Bali,” which actually touches on more conventionally styled fusion and features Mariano's soprano saxophone skills magnificently — are written with microscopic attention to time, harmonics, and the textural relationships between sounds; elements of folk song are added to the mix and melody plays a greater role than improvisation, making for a truly fascinating listen. While not as balanced as its predecessors, it is nonetheless a compelling listen. These three discs have been gorgeously remastered and are bundled in a box with a beautiful booklet containing photos and an exhaustive historical and biographical essay by Michael Tucker. Essential.

Biography

Born: 22 January 1940 in Stuttgart, Germany

Genre: Jazz

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

Though not strictly a jazz bassist and certainly one of the least flamboyant improvisers, Eberhard Weber is among Europe's finest bassists. His style doesn't embrace either a bluesy orientation or an animated, energetic approach. Weber's influences are primarily European, notably contemporary classical and new music. His technique of using contrasting ostinato patterns in different voices was taken from composer Steve Reich. He's also made innovations in bass design. Weber added an extra string to...
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Colours, Eberhard Weber
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