Good improvisers can bolster a melodic development. The really great ones can make up a whole new one out of thin air.
Bassist, composer, bandleader — and master improviser — Eberhard Weber did a lot of that over the course of over 1,000 concerts and twenty-seven years as a member of the Jan Garbarek Group. These concerts featured parts whereby Weber would bridge together songs played in different keys with standalone solos that eased the transition along while providing the opportunity for him add his wholly own unique expressions during those few minutes the stage floor was his.
Recently, Weber pored through some one hundred of these concert solos that were recorded over decades and he spotted an opportunity to repurpose these solos to formally create entire separate entities out of them. Résumé selected just twelve of those solos that formed the basis for “new” compositions that had existed since he created them on the spot in stops around Europe between 1990 and 2007, but through the use of some clever technologically-enhanced manipulations, such as the delay effect as well as the discreet use of keyboards and various synth effects, he greatly expanded the sonic palette of these solos, culminating in fleshed out products of art.
Weber, however, would be the first to tell you it’s much less important how he put together the music than the resulting music itself. In the liner notes, he makes his mission crystal clear: “Workable colouration, inventing fascination sounds; those were my goals.” For the mastermind behind Colours of Chloe, such things always mattered to him, this latest album is “merely” using a different method to attain the same result.
The twelve tracks are named for the European cities in which the base/bass solos were recorded and Weber strung them together in such a way that there’s a perceptible flow to it. A flow that’s not quite jazz, not quite new age, not quite classical, but something incorporates elements of all. It’s clear from the opening strains of “Liezen” that Weber is going for a rich sound constructed with layered repeating figures that often mutate into something else over time. The other thing that’s evident is who’s playing that five string, electric standup bass, played in such an aching, wistful and lyrical way.
Interestingly, these pieces have little in the way of improvising, at least improvising in the jazz sense. There are such dexterous exercises found at the beginning of the cuts “Heidenheim” and “Lasize,” and they’re pretty impressive in their range and imagination, but by and large, Weber is using his bass like a voice, singing the main melodic progressions, and sometimes some harmony parts, while orchestral-sounding synths or a twinkling piano provides a lush backdrop. These relatively short pieces don’t dwell overlong on ideas, but they all seem interconnected in some way, which is likely just how the artist intended. Even so, “Wolfsburg” is standout because Weber is soloing way up in the register as he’s so good at doing, against a two chord riff, and tactfully, the accompanying music comes and goes, putting the accents to certain parts of his performance by its absence. His bowed bass solo that follows is uniquely sorrowful.
Wherever it made sense, Weber brought in Garbarek and drummer/percussionist Michael DiPasqua to accentuate the songs. Garbarek’s selje flute was already part of the original recording of “Bath,” and in this finished form, it becomes this oddly organic contrast to the cold barren man-made sonic wash that was added later. Garbarek dubbed in a tenor sax to “Amsterdam” and soprano to “Tübingen,” and in each case, his various instruments are just as unmistakable as who is playing them as is Weber’s singular imprint. For “Bochum”, Weber’s string scratching creates a bluegrass jig as DiPasqua’s drums plays off against that.
Weber extensively described the thought process and notions that went behind the creation of this very unique “live” album within those liner notes, but never really explained the reason for the title. It’s hard not to think how Weber in his work as both leader and sideman since the early 70s has culminated into a very impressive résumé, however. And now he builds on it with another fascinating record where the sideman is transformed into the leader.
Résumé was released January 8, by ECM Records.