04 Isang YunIsang Yun – Sunrise Falling
Dennis Russell Davies; Matt Haimovitz; Yumi Hwang-Williams; Maki Namekawa; Bruckner Orchester Linz
Pentatone PTC 5186 693 (naxosdirect.com/items/sunrise-falling-467137)

Isang Yun: Sunrise Falling is a centennial commemoration of the uncompromising life and music of Korean-German composer Isang Yun (1917–1995). Maestro Dennis Russell Davies, long a Yun collaborator and advocate, curated the program, ably conducting the Bruckner Orchestra Linz.

Born in present-day South Korea and later re-establishing himself in West Germany, Yun certainly has one of the most unusual biographies of any composer of Western concert music. His is an epic story of a lifelong fight for Korean national independence and unity, thwarted by exile, all framed by the creation of some of the most emotionally gripping and transculturally cogent music of the 20th century. After establishing an award-winning composing and teaching career in Korea after WWII, in 1956 Yun relocated to Europe to further study composition, settling in Germany. His idiosyncratic style fully emerged in Gasa (1963) for violin and piano, evocatively performed on this album by violinist Yumi Hwang-Williams and pianist Dennis Russell Davies. Its score overlays Schoenberg-derived 12-tone gestures with complex sustained tones imbued with high emotion, the latter, an essential quality of traditional Korean music.

On June 17, 1967 Yun’s life took an extraordinarily dramatic and life-threatening turn. He was kidnapped by the South Korean secret service from his West Berlin home. Taken to Seoul to face trumped-up charges, he was accused of being a North Korean spy even though he had only visited there as a tourist. Tortured in prison, he attempted suicide. He was forced to confess to espionage resulting in a death sentence, subsequently commuted to a lengthy prison term. Yun was eventually released in 1969, in great measure as a result of international outrage at his mistreatment and the injustice of the charge. He returned to a divided Germany never again to go back to his Korean birthplace.

Yun’s dramatic biography informs his mature music – a convincing blend of Korean and European musical instruments, idioms and sensibilities – accurately reflecting the human and political drama and intercultural fabric of his life story. The album’s key works are the full-length Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra (1976), and Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No.1 (1981), both imbued with autobiographical allusion. Virtuoso cellist Matt Haimovitz assays Yun’s intense score jam-packed with despair, as well as exultation over personal tragedy, with deep musicality and passion. Innovative timbral textures, such as the use of a plectrum on the cello to emulate the kŏmun’go (Korean zither), delight the ear. That technique also adroitly bridges the composer’s mid-20th-century Korean and Central European classical music worlds.

The double album’s booklet concludes on a hopeful note. “100 years after Isang Yun’s birth, the two Koreas still teeter on a razor’s edge, with ever more global ramifications. His music opens the gate to a lost, united land, with Yun’s own heart bleeding but ever hopeful.”

Listen to 'Isang Yun – Sunrise Falling' Now in the Listening Room

05 Piazzolla NeaveCelebrating Piazzolla
Neave Trio
Azica Records ACD-71324 (naxosdirect.com/items/celebrating-piazzolla-473444)

The Neave Trio, comprised of violinist Anna Williams, cellist Mikhail Veselov and pianist Eri Nakamura, perform arrangements of Astor Piazzolla compositions in this new release without, in a refreshing change of musical pace, the composer’s ever present bandoneon. The resulting soundscape brings a new life to Piazzolla’s music. José Bragato is a cellist/composer who played in several of Piazzolla’s ensembles and here arranged the four-movement Las cuatro estaciones porteňas for the trio. Each movement is true to the Piazzolla sound, with the musicians playing abrupt tempo changes, rhythms, high pitches and mournful sounds with passion. Great extended solos showcase their commitment to the composer’s work in the final Invierno Porteňa movement.

The trio is then joined by mezzo-soprano Carla Jablonski in five Piazzolla songs arranged by Leonardo Suárez Paz, son of Piazzolla’s band member violinist Fernando. Jablonski’s voice captures all the emotive sentiments especially in the familiar Oblivion, where the vocals are surprisingly able to emulate the bandoneon sound, especially in the lengthy held notes, while the trio continues to create a larger band sound. Lyrics and translations would be appreciated.

The recording ends with a performance of Suárez Paz’s work Milonga de los Monsters. Though more atonal, touches of Piazzolla sounds surface in this technically amazing fun-filled performance. The Neave Trio is to be congratulated for their passionate fresh ideas of ensemble and instrumental performance. Their expertise in sound creation, playing and improvising create a new way to hear Piazzolla’s work.

Listen to 'Celebrating Piazzolla' Now in the Listening Room

06 Tobias KleinTobias Klein – Chambery
Fie Schouten
Attaca ATT 2018156 (attacaproductions.com)

Tobias Klein looks out from the cover photo on this disc with an ingenuous expression of innocent gratitude that you might want to listen to his music. Don’t be fooled. He knows you want to dislike it and him and yet he still expects to win you over. His ally in the effort is bass clarinetist Fie Schouten, with accomplices too numerous to list.

As if to sucker the listener, he starts with Leichte Überlappungen (2018), a bass clarinet duet composed, according to his own words in the notes, using a rigorous mathematical method contrary to his normal practice of unrigorous, intuitive construction. Not a great opening gambit, it says here. I disagree with the composer that the result of his decision “sounds like it was composed with a lot of passion.” Still, the quality of performance and the interesting structure leave one maybe slightly more inclined to like the guy and his music. Then he whacks you with all the winning arguments to follow.

Far more successful, and interesting, is Kengboginn (2014), a lyrical conversation between bass clarinet and harpsichord, the latter somewhat overmatched in the mix. Back in time we go to 2009, a far more primitive time where drums, breaking glass, and bass clarinet dance about naked, without inhibition, in (deep breath) SteinHolzGummiWasser. Bogus Bogey, a trio with piano and flute (2005), is neither scary, golf-related, nor as far as one can hear, bogus; it’s just pretty cool, as in Mission Impossible (the television series) cool. Vermutung (2008) is a very hip pairing of accordion with bass clarinet (what could be hipper?).

Well played, Mr. Klein, well played. Extremely well played, Ms. Schouten et al.

Listen to 'Tobias Klein – Chambery' Now in the Listening Room

08 ElectroClarinetElectroclarinet
Jean-Francois Charles
Independent (electroclarinet.com)

I must say it’s refreshing to consider a CD that includes a poem instead of traditional liner notes. The untitled poem written in French, by Alice Gervais-Ragu, seems to refer specifically to the beast that is the clarinet (most especially the contrabass and the basset). Jean-François Charles has tamed these hounds, the whole pack in fact, who wag their tails with delight on this disc.

Clarinetist and composer Charles, whose series of six pieces titled ElectroClarinet make up the bulk of the disc, gives no other accounting for his work than the audible evidence: Ten tracks, recorded in Iowa City over a two-day period roughly one year ago. His métier is acoustic instrument with live electronics. He grapples with every member of the broad range of horns, from contrabass (an octave below the bass clarinet), through bass, basset horn, A, B-flat, and E-flat. Electroclarinet 1 dates from 2009; the latest and longest, Electroclarinet6, from 2014. The four in between are subtitled as Homage to… (in order) Debussy, Weber, Messiaen and Stravinsky.

Delays, reverb, and a variety of granulating effects create soundscapes distinctly unclarinet-like. Anyone so inclined is welcome to delve into how the homages relate to the various composers and the works they notably added to the repertoire. (There’s something reminiscent of L’Abyme des Oiseaux in number four and flat-out quotes from Stravinsky’s Three Pieces in number five.) I recommend putting these on and enjoying the path to wherever the pooch wants to go.

Listen to 'Electroclarinet' Now in the Listening Room

01 Eldon Rathburn ProjectThe Romance of Improvisation in Canada: The Genius of Eldon Rathburn
Petr Cancura; Kevin Turcotte; Marianne Trudel; Adrian Vedady; Jim Doxas
Justin Time JTR 8613-2 (justin-time.com/en/album/588)

The Romance of Improvisation in Canada – The Genius of Eldon Rathburn celebrates the music of the late, titular composer, who wrote more than 250 film scores, the majority of them during his long career as a staff composer for the National Film Board. This album – released through Justin Time, and helmed by Adrian Matte and Allyson Rogers, who co-produce and arrange all the album’s music – is a labour of love to the memory of Rathburn, whose music will be familiar to multiple generations of Canadians, even if his name is not. Playing Matte and Rogers’ arrangements is the top-notch ensemble of Petr Cancura, saxophone, Kevin Turcotte, trumpet, Marianne Trudel, piano, Adrian Vedady, bass, and Jim Doxas, drums.

Working for the NFB, many of Rathburn’s assignments involved composing music for educational shorts, including the endearingly titled Fish Spoilage Control; the theme gets an up-tempo swing treatment on this album, with a jagged melody set atop a tense pedal point. The Industrial Revolution Comes to Canada, at a mere 31 seconds, is a brief foreboding delight; likewise the three sections of the Ox Driver’s Blues suite. Fresh Fish Delish! Le Poisson se mange frais! is a bouncy, bluesy number, which, like so much of the album, balances humour and levity with the ensemble’s sophisticated improvisational prowess; Vedady, Turcotte, Cancura and Trudel all take concise solos. An excellent and unique album, appropriate for those interested in Rathburn, jazz, Canadiana or any combination thereof.

03 Ben dCunhaThis Is Autumn to Me
Ben D’Cunha
Independent (bendcunha.com)

On his debut recording, compelling pianist, vocalist and composer, Ben D’Cunha culled the selection of tunes here from 27 original songs captured in a single four-hour recording session this past summer. D’Cunha’s voice is rich and lustrous, and his jazz sensibility and phrasing are superb. As a pianist, he is in the pocket, connecting on a psychic level with the superb musicians also featured on this fine recording – Bob Brough on tenor saxophone, Jordan O’Connor on acoustic bass and Mike McClelland on drums.

The CD gets going with Earworm – an up-tempo, beboppish salute to the great vocalese progenitors, such as Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. D’Cunha bops and scats joyously throughout this delightful tune, punctuated by the trading of fours with Brough, O’Connor and McClelland. Of special note is the title track, a lilting bossa with a charming lyric and thoroughly gorgeous vocal. D’Cunha seems to channel the late, great, Kenny Rankin here with his pitch-pure and vibrato-controlled vocal sound. Also of note is Where Are You Now – a touching ballad of a past love, loss and reflection. The pristine canvas of piano, bass and drums is the perfect setting for this deeply moving piece.

The ten tasty tracks continue with Sweet Honey Bee (Won’t You Walk With Me) – a bluesy, funky tune featuring the soulful tones of Brough on tenor; and also the brilliantly lyricized, You Expletive You – a contemplative ballad about toxic love. O’Connor sets the sultry tone with the wonderful voice/bass duet that kicks off this boppish ballad, and Brough’s languid solo is masterful, as is O’Connor’s.

03 TrioliloquyTrioliloquy
A/B Trio
Chronojazz CR065 (chronographrecords.com/releases/trioliloquoy)

While the slyly clever play on words in the title may suggest drama and a certain angular structure to the music, nothing can really prepare you for the fierce energy that leaps out of the opening chords of the A/B Trio’s opening chart Lenny’s Beat. It’s an immensely exciting start to a recording that has you on the edge of your seat.

Primary colours abound in the textures that often rustle in the raw silk of Dan Davis’ saxophones that receive a mighty fillip from the brassy ones that special guest, trumpeter Kevin Turcotte, brings to the trio. All this while bassist Josh McHan and percussion colourist Thom Bennett keep the music on a tight rein, with rhythms and phrasing that are tight and alert.

It’s quite a shock to also see how fast the music can move from the tempestuous opening chart to the stately canter of the romantically inclined How Suite It Is, where the musicians take an elegiac view of the written material and work around it to produce something quite magical even in a walking rhythm.

The poetic waltz Leda’s Song later in in the repertoire keeps things deliriously romantic and balletic at the same time; this before the heat is turned up once again with the raw and gutsy Bluesaholic and the tantalizing interplay of Secondary Opinion that closes this edifying music. Capture that in a recording that gives space to sound and you have a winner.

04 Uncertainly PrincipleLive at The Rex
The Uncertainty Principle
Independent (andrewboniwell.com)

With the release of pianist and composer Andrew Boniwell’s second CD with his stellar ensemble, The Uncertainty Principle, he has once again established himself as one of the most creative, non-Euclidian, improvisational jazz musicians on the scene today. For this live recording (expertly engineered by Neil MacIntosh at Toronto’s Rex Hotel and Jazz and Blues Bar), he has once again coalesced the considerable talents of Richard Underhill on alto saxophone, Kevin Turcotte on trumpet, Artie Roth on bass and Mike McClelland on drums. Boniwell serves as producer here, and has written all but one of the compositions. He is also fluent in what is possibly the only universal language – mathematics – and although the sophisticated quantum concepts that are integral to his music may not be readily understood, the exciting and unpredictable aspects of it certainly communicate the plasticity of space/time, as well as the thrilling idea of participating in a perfect, unexpected and unplanned moment of creation.

Boniwell’s opening salvo, Getting Higgy With It, Part #1 is a dream-like piano and percussion exploration which segues into the evocative Sleeping Giant, which features superb work from Underhill and McClelland. Another standout is Probability Wave #1 / HUP Poem, in which a superb bass solo and profound trumpet work lead the ensemble into a free flight of beauty and majesty punctuated by a stirring, hip, thought-provoking spoken word sequence by Boniwell. Winding up the CD are two exceptional tracks, Suite 60, where Underhill’s alto and Turcotte’s muted trumpet cling together like particles attracting, and Monk’s Well, You Needn’t, re-imagined with Latin underpinnings. Both are triumphs, as is the entire recording.

Listen to 'Live at The Rex' Now in the Listening Room

06 Mike FieldTrue Stories
Mike Field
Independent MFJCD 1801 (mikefieldjazz.com)

Following three previous award-winning CDs, trumpeter/composer/vocalist Mike Field presents a heady blend of his actual diverse, peripatetic road experiences expertly merged with compelling bits of pure fantasy. Field serves as composer here, as well as co-producer/co-arranger with noted guitarist Dominic Mancuso. In order to bring his eclectic concept into reality, Field has assembled a cast of fine musicians, including Mark Camilleri on piano/organ, Russ Boswell and George Koller on bass, Davide Direnzo on drums, Rosendo “Chendy” León on percussion, Mancuso and Tony Zorzi on guitar and Jerry Caringi on accordion.

The project kicks off with Mechanic, a hard-rocking anthem, replete with burning horns, face-melting guitar and impassioned vocals by Field that tell the story of a lonely, travelling space mechanic. Following immediately is another standout, The Hotel by the Mansion, which features a klezmer-like arrangement about a very peculiar circus act, starring a woman with fire in her hair (the kind of act that you can only do once!) Field soars on Tu vuo’ fa’ l’americano – a lusty reworking of Carosone and Salerno’s Neapolitan classic, most recently heard in the film, The Talented Mr. Ripley, replete with a bombastic accordion solo from Caringi.

Also of note are Magnolia, a swinging, jazz-like tune that features not only a fine vocal by Field, but also a dynamic trumpet solo, and the lyrical closer, Autumn Lovesong, which is a tender reflection on love, life, family, the turning of the seasons and the inevitable passage of time. Field sings deeply and emotionally, in symbiosis with gorgeous piano work by Camilleri.

Listen to 'True Stories' Now in the Listening Room

07 No CodesNo Codes
Benjamin Deschamps
Independent (benjamindeschamps.com)

Put these four gentlemen together in the warmth of an acoustically perfect room and you instantly have a heavyweight quartet bursting forth from bar one, then continuing to carve out a niche for itself. No Codes suggests allegiance to no single style within the realm of jazz but there is certainly a reference to the rippling boppish groove that soon unfolds into music with tantalizing angular melodies couched in complex tempi and abruptly changing rhythms.

Alto saxophonist Benjamin Deschamps, playing his heart out, shows that he can hold his own with his veteran colleague tenor saxophonist Frank Lozano. Bassist Sébastien Pellerin and drummer Louis-Vincent Hamel frame the broodingly percussive rhythm section but every now and then they come forth from playing in the pocket to ring in the changes in mood, structure and tempo. All of this makes for a highly interesting program, from the blistering bop runs of Rules of Compression that lift the lid on this pressure-cooker atmosphere around the band to the loose and funky swagger of Cool Cats and the tart, party-time thrills and spills of Double Meaning and My Steps.

There is a considerable degree of balance and integration of melody, harmony and rhythm from this piano-less quartet. This is touching and toe-tapping music in equal measure. Again, composition and improvisation, exploration, individuality and tradition are all impressively maintained throughout, which makes No Codes a disc to absolutely die for.

Listen to 'No Codes' Now in the Listening Room

08 Allison AuWander Wonder
Allison Au Quartet
Independent AA-18 (allisonau.com)

The Allison Au Quartet has been together since 2009 and their first album, The Sky Was Pale Blue, Then Grey (2013) was nominated for a JUNO. The second album, Forest Grove, won a JUNO in 2016 for Best Jazz Album of the Year: Group. Wander Wonder is their third release and is a thoughtful and subtle work with each musician contributing their technique and inspiration to Au’s complex and layered compositions. For example, the group’s casual precision is demonstrated during the drum solo which ends Force Majeure: Fabio Ragnelli plays with abandon while Todd Pentney (piano) and Jon Maharaj (bass) lay down an understated and contrasting, repeating chordal vamp. Throughout the album, Au’s alto saxophone is light but intense and reminds me a little of Paul Desmond but leaner; it fits well with her writing where solos are interspersed with ensemble sections and melodic fragments.

Highlights include Looking Up which begins with Ragnelli’s subtle drum intro. Then Au plays a beautiful looping melody over clever rhythmic punctuation, an ostinato bass pattern interrupts before the melody returns and leads into an elegant piano solo. Red Herring begins with a syncopated minor melody over funky and jagged beats. As the piece progresses, Pentney’s Prophet Rev2 adds an ominous texture for some additional tension. The piece winds its way down a number of genre alleys (as its title suggests) and is ultimately satisfying and not at all misleading. Wander Wonder is an exquisite album that balances introspection with some terrific solos.

09 AutoschediasmAutoschediasm
Karoline Leblanc; Ernesto Rodrigues; Nicolas Caloia
Atrito-Afeito 010 (atrito-afeito.com)

Autoschediasm (the term indicates something improvised, offhand or casual) presents a three-segment collective improvisation created by Montreal-based pianist Karoline Leblanc and bassist Nicolas Caloia and Portuguese violist Ernesto Rodrigues. All are accomplished improvisers, but each brings different threads: Leblanc’s background stresses the classical avant-garde; Caloia’s career emphasizes free jazz; Rodrigues, who leads several distinct improvising orchestras in Lisbon, has championed free improvisation for over 30 years, appearing on scores of CDs.

While the title suggests something casual, the music sounds appropriate to its Conservatoire de Musique de Montréal setting, the trio bringing a high modernist discipline and precision to the work. The opening movement flows with an energy that is dense and light. Sparked initially by LeBlanc’s imaginative keyboard flights, in its later stages it settles into a churning rhythmic pattern that ignites Rodrigues’ radical virtuosity, resulting in a flurry of microtonal lines that sometimes create their own counterpart. Offhand? Casual? The only thing that distinguishes it from composed music is the challenge of writing it down.

The second movement takes a contrasting approach, developing little sounds, arising discreetly, sometimes pointillist, at times muffled, at others percussive, a gently humming underbrush alive with detail. The final segment moves from delicate sonic events to a turbulent, vibrant world that recalls the opening, a formal motion that exaggerates a pattern evident since the early classical era. It’s an act of “autoschediasm” rich in taut attention to nuance and form.

10 Pressing CloudsPressing Clouds Passing Crowds
Kim Myhr; Quatuor Bozzini; Caroline Bergvall; Ingar Zach
Hubro HUBRO CD 2612 (hubromusic.com)

Initially commissioned and performed at FIMAV in Victoriaville, Quebec, Pressing Clouds Passing Crowds is a musical rumination on immutable nature and human disruption, composed by Kim Myhr, the Norwegian guitarist whose strums underscore the narrative that ululates through this six-track suite.

Accompanied by Norwegian percussionist Ingar Zach and framed by the harmonies of Montreal string ensemble Quatuor Bozzini (QB), the music shares space with the idiosyncratic recitation by French-Norwegian poet Caroline Bergvall. Her distinctive phrasing helps set up a rhythmically charged program where her vocal narrative adds as much to individual sequences as the QB’s intermittently buzzing glissandi, the percussionist’s hand pops and vibrations, plus the guitarist’s string strokes and spanks on 12-string acoustic, which constantly move the theme forward. Moving efficiently through word images that range among simple instances of nature appreciation, chimerical retelling of dreamlike surprises, and astute allusions to political events involving refugees and dangerous water crossings, Bergvall sets up hypnotic sequences whose resolution depends as much on the feints and fancies of instrumental virtuosity as the players’ strategies depend on her verbal concoctions.

With its echoes of folksay, impressionism, stark improvisation and poetics, Pressing Clouds Passing Crowds is a distinctive creation which can be experienced more than once – which is precisely what can be done by listening to this CD.

11 LingerLinger
Benoît Delbecq; Jorrit Dijkstra; John Hollenbeck
Driff Records CD 1801 (driffrecords.com)

Reshaping improvisational parameters, Dutch alto saxophonist Jorrit Dijkstra and French pianist Benoît Delbecq add flexible oscillations to the ten performances here by also improvising on, respectively, Lyricon and preparations for synthesizer, aided by the flexible percussion patterning of Montreal-based John Hollenbeck.

With instrumental additions that can process tones as they’re created, the Europeans’ secondary voices multiply interactions past standard trio voicings to suggest enhanced melodic lyricism and rhythmic vigour, often simultaneously. On Stir for instance, reed smears and outer-space-like oral currents vie for supremacy challenged by wave-form squibs and measured keyboard chording. Unfazed by timbre multiplicity, the drummer not only keeps a backbeat going, most powerfully on Push, but also bluntly asserts his agenda with individualistic rolls and ruffs plus cymbal splashes there and throughout the CD.

Dijkstra and Delbecq don’t just depend on texture supplements as they aptly demonstrate on Dwell, where irregular saxophone trills and split tones confront a flowing keyboard narrative plus inner piano string stops; or on Stalk, where modulated piano clusters create an impressionistic theme that complements inchoate Lyricon echoes as well as cursive beats plus drum-rim rubbing from Hollenbeck.

Contrapuntal yet communicative, the textural sound-melding throughout the disc suggests that Dijkstra and Delbecq, who first met at the Banff Jazz Workshop in 1990, should collaborate more often. As it is, the two, plus Hollenback’s fluid and inventive patterning, have created a session over which one can beneficially linger.

12 Eric DolphyEric Dolphy – Musical Prophet
Eric Dolphy
Resonance Records HCD-2035 (resonancerecords.org)

When Eric Dolphy died in a diabetic coma in 1964 at 36, he represented a special loss to jazz: a master of three distinct woodwinds (alto saxophone, bass clarinet and flute) whose exalted technical acumen and creative intensity contributed immeasurably to great recordings by John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus, George Russell and Oliver Nelson, among many others.

Musical Prophet is a 3CD set that expands the 1963 sessions that produced the LPs Conversations and Iron Man. Ranging from unaccompanied saxophone solos (Love Me is an expressionist masterpiece heard here in three versions) to a tentet, from jazz standards like Fats Waller’s Jitterbug Waltz (on flute) to Dolphy’s own dense, swarming Burning Spear, it’s the finest portrait of the breadth of Dolphy’s genius available. There are no finer examples of the “third stream” impulse than Dolphy’s duets with bassist Richard Davis, abstract weavings that press Ellington’s Come Sunday and the standard Alone Together into classics of improvised chamber music. On Music Matador, his bass clarinet roars with celebratory abandon.

Dolphy’s breadth is as apparent in his range of collaborators, from bassoonist Garvin Bushell, who recorded with Mamie Smith in 1922, to 18-year-old trumpeter Woody Shaw, here making his recording debut. Along with the expansive and illuminating alternate takes, the set includes a remarkable bonus, A Personal Statement, with an extended musical dialogue that includes pianist Bob James (yes, that Bob James) and countertenor David Schwartz.

13 Keith JarrettLa Fenice
Keith Jarrett
ECM ECM2601-02 (ecmrecords.com/catalogue/1532415893/la-fenice-keith-jarrett)

A new release from the Keith Jarrett concert archive is always a welcome occasion. Such is the case with La Fenice, the ECM label’s latest offering from the virtuoso pianist, which comes to us as a two-disc set featuring an improvised solo concert recorded at Gran Teatro La Fenice, Venice, in 2006. By this time, Jarrett had adopted a concert format during which he would improvise a series of relatively short pieces, as opposed to the long uninterrupted sets that he favoured on earlier iconic recordings such as La Scala and Bremen/Lausanne.

Interestingly though, Jarrett begins La Fenice by breaking these self-imposed format limits, as he launches into a mostly atonal musical exploration which clocks in at over 17 minutes, until its final unexpected resolution in F-sharp Major. In Part 3, the pianist visits one of his more familiar trademark styles wherein his left hand lays down an ostinato pattern while the right hand improvises fluid gospel/blues lines. Rhythmic clarity, direction and superb melodic development are present throughout, as Jarrett pulls off one amazing pianistic feat after another with apparent ease. The music then segues into an achingly beautiful ballad, possibly one of the most breathtaking improvised pieces he has ever recorded.

On disc two, the pianist breaks up more complex harmonic territory with a bittersweet Gilbert and Sullivan tune (The Sun Whose Rays), before proceeding on to a straight-out blues romp. We are also treated to several encores, including My Wild Irish Rose, Stella by Starlight and a stunning Jarrett original, Blossom. On Stella, the pianist is clearly enjoying himself as he weaves complex bop lines over a left hand walking bass, while also tapping his foot on beats two and four: a one-man band!

All told, La Fenice is a deserving addition to Jarrett’s long and distinguished recording legacy.

Back to top