Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Now Spinning

I'm currently pursuing a story about ECM Records, which involves a convoluted interview process with the globe-trotting Manfred Eicher, so the label is much on my mind. Considering ECM, it is always difficult to overlook the monster in its catalogue, Keith Jarrett's Köln Concert, which continues to click along in sales like Kind Of Blue. Jarrett's improvised solo recitals and – more recently – the staggering output of his so-called Standards Trio tend to overshadow the work I first loved: the American Quartet with Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden and Paul Motian, which recorded for ABC in the mid-'70s. I saw them live the same month that I first saw Bruce Springsteen, and both events are seminal for me. As good as Jarrett's solo outings and trio are, I know I'm not alone in wishing that he would compose again.

I think drummer George Schuller is with me on that. A criminally under-appreciated drummer and bandleader, Schuller has just released an homage to Jarrett's quartet. Like Before, Somewhat After features a quintet (with Brad Shepik on guitar, Donny McCaslin, saxes, Dave Ambrosio, bass, and Tom Beckham, vibes, along with percussionist Jamey Haddad on a few tracks) performing five Jarrett compositions and a couple of Schuller originals inspired by the Jarrett four.

Very interesting, and I'm digging the way Schuller takes liberties – particularly on one of my favorites from Jarrett's Fort Yawuh: "De Drums." This is great music that deserves to be re-discovered. Sadly, those original recordings are hard to find. Pick them up if you find them, and hope that they get a proper resurrection sometime soon.

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