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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 20, No. 3

Jazz Off the Record: Tributes

by Marc Chénard / November 1, 2014

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Aki Takase and Alexander von Schlippenbach – So Long, Eric!
Intakt CD 239

On June 29, 1964, Eric Dolphy died suddenly in West Berlin, enclaved as it was by its Wall of Shame. A half-century later, on June 21 and 22 of this year, twelve musicians gathered in the now-reunited capital to perform a concert in homage to the deceased. Alexander von Schlippenbach and his wife Aki Takase, both pianists, shared the task of arranging nine Dolphy originals. Hot off the press, this album was just launched on October 30 during the Berlin Jazz Festival, coincidentally marking its 50th anniversary. Two of the musicians heard here actually played with Dolphy in his final days: drummer Han Bennink and vibra- phonist Karl Berger. Anyone familiar with Dolphy’s oeuvre will recognize the pieces, the arrangements very much in keeping with the musical style (angular melodies underpinned by a swinging rhythmic groove). After listening, it appears the directors chose to play it a little safe with this now-historical music, save for the last number, Out to Lunch, the most adventurous track of this 67-minute side.

Ideal Bread – beating the teens (The music of Steve Lacy)
Cuneiform Records 386/387

This coop band with two saxes, bass, and drums dedicates itself to the music of soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy. Ten years after his death, this quartet issues its third tribute album, this one focused on Lacy’s work of the 1970s. In 30 tracks spread out over two hour-plus discs, this ensemble of young, contemporary American jazzmen really appropriates these works for their own purposes, even if this means straying considerably from the original versions. For them, this music is not so much an end in itself but rather a stepping-stone toward more personal musical explorations, some quite abstract, others closer to the traditional jazz language. Even though this album may not be the best introduction to the music of Steve Lacy for the uninitiated – for this, we’d recommend the albums on the Saravah label – it’s still well worth a listen, especially for all Lacy aficionados out there.

The Bad Plus – The Rite of Spring
Sony Masterworks 02045-2  

Though known for their brash covers of rock and pop hits, the trio The Bad Plus surprised many with their take on Stravinsky’s masterpiece. From these gentlemen, we may well expect a fairly unconventional rendition, but in fact they don’t stray too far from the score; their version clocks in just under the 40-minute mark of the original. Last year, the Montreal ensemble Quartetski did the same on its album, but their version took greater liberties (and listeners should check out their Ambiance Magnétiques release for comparative purposes). If there is daringness here, it is that of taking an orchestral work and paring it down to the classic piano trio format.

Translation: Rebecca Anne Clark

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