critic’s pick 264: eberhard weber, ‘resume’

When the word Resume gets appropriated as the title of a popular music recording, it usually indicates the work at hand is an anthology of some kind – an overview or, at least, an estimation of an artist’s past work and worth.

In essence, that definition holds true for a fascinating new instrumental album by the acclaimed Stuttgart born bassist Eberhard Weber. The record indeed collects musical fragments of the past. But none are familiar or qualify even remotely as “hits.” One of the defining artists of the European-bred “ECM sound” that combines improvisational invention with spacious and highly impressionistic ambience, Weber has collected a series of 12 bass interludes performed during 17 years worth of European concerts as a member of the Jan Garbarek Group. Resume then edits and remixes these passages into near cinematic compositions that place the wintry, Nordic-flavored atmospherics that dominated early ECM records alongside more intimate, folk-enhanced settings.

It’s important to keep in mind that Resume is not a solo bass recording. There are typically otherworldly contributions by Garbarek on tenor and soprano saxophone and selje flute along with earthier percussive colors from Michael DiPasqua. Weber dominates, though, having built this music from the ground up on five-string electric double bass before fleshing it out onstage over the years with a variety of echo, reverb and delay effects. Keyboards were also employed to further orchestrate the music.

As such, the album-opening Liezen (the tunes are all named after the cities these blueprint bass experiments were recorded in) oozes in like late afternoon clouds with the spontaneously dubbed solos creating fascinating musical monologues. Amsterdam works in percussion for a punctuated ballet of sorts before the bass takes off at a modest gallop. Then on Bath, the bass sings over bowed counterpoint playing as a keyboard melody is repeated like a distant mantra. The resulting music is simultaneously fanciful and, as the piece progresses, pastoral.

But the highlight is Wolfsburg, where the rich definition of Weber’s bass work stands alone until brief showers of keyboards and piano provide a lovely twilight feel.                                                                                                                                                                               There is perhaps an ulterior motive for fashioning the present day compositions of Resume out of previously recorded improvisations. Weber suffered a stroke while on tour with Garbarek in 2007. Partial left hand paralysis has left him unable to play in recent years. But where the fingers shut down, the intellect takes over. As such, Resume’s sense of musical reinvention is remarkable. But don’t dwell too greatly on the recording’s construction process. Instead, simply bask in the warm, wintry glow of music that discovers a beguiling new place for the bass.

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