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ECM Announces Summer Release Schedule

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With summer looming the German ECM label announces its new release schedule with a number of surprising reunions. Label head Manfred Eicher, when asked about these unexpected regroupings, had this to say: “My philosophy has always been to move music forward and not look back; but when the opportunity arose to reconvene some of our most successful groups, I felt that the label's aesthetic would not be compromised. I guarantee that these reunions will not be mere rehashes of old material; there will be many surprises for all."

First up, and likely most visible, is the long-awaited reunion of pianist Keith Jarrett and his legendary European Quartet with Jan Garbarek, Palle Danielsson and Jon Christensen. Mai D'Hong represents a new and unusual direction for Jarrett, as he explores the use of oriental instruments to reinterpret material from the Great American Songbook. Garbarek is heard on the sheng, an ancient multi-reed instrument; bassist Palle Danielsson introduces the three-stringed rabbab, a fretless instrument notable for its self-accompanying capability; finally Jon Christensen is heard exclusively on the Tam-Tam, a large gong. Jarrett says, “I have long been interested in the sonic potential of marrying the piano with ancient oriental instruments, but in a way that is more current. The Great American Songbook has been done to death with traditional instruments; now is the time to introduce a new aural experience, married with my penchant for traditionalism." Jarrett also plans to release an album of alternate takes titled Mai Thong.

After a hiatus of twenty years guitarist John Abercrombie reunites with keyboardist Jan Hammer and drummer Jack DeJohnette for Thymeless, an album of Simon and Garfunkel covers. “Simon and Garfunkel created music not only for its time," says Abercrombie, “but ahead of its time and possibly even behind its time." Abercrombie and his trio tackle such timeless gems as “Feelin' Groovy," “The Boxer," “Peggy-O," and, of course, “Scarborough Fair."

With no new releases since 1999, Garbarek fans will be happy to hear that not only has he recorded the Jarrett reunion, but also a new recording with The Hilliard Ensemble titled Pliocene. On this album, Garbarek, heard only on a wooden log, accompanies the Ensemble faithfully recreating prehistoric cave chants. “We wanted to go back to prehistory, to examine the real roots of chant," explains Garbarek. “Long before the monophony of ancient Greek music, early man created their own form of plainchant; recently recovered documents show a primitive notation which I have carefully studied and transcribed into more modern musical form."

Finally, nujazz trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer returns to the ECM fold with C'Mere. Unlike his most recent albums, which make extensive use of samples, loops and drum boxes, Molvaer returns to his roots with an album of creative music using only childhood instruments including ukulele, toy piano, xylophone and kazoo. “I just don't think that anyone has ever really explored the full range of these instruments," says an unusually excited Molvaer. “Thanks to Manfred Eicher I've been able to realize my dream, exploring the outer reaches of improvised music using naive instruments with limitations that are, actually, quite deceptive." Not wanting to leave his nujazz work completely behind, Molvaer will offer Stolid Either, a remix album, in the early fall.

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