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Marc Johnson / Elaine Elias Swept Away
on October 1, 2012
Swept Away is the appropriately titled new release from Marc Johnson and Eliane Elias.
Picking a favorite ECM recording is the sonic equivalent of asking a parent to chose a favorite child, this release would at the very least be in the top five. A stunning display of contemporary aesthetics transformed into a more open ended exploratory of warmth and profound lyrical depth.
Joining Johnson and Elias we have Joey Baron on drums and Joe Lovano on tenor saxophone to round out a fearsome 4tet that brings a unique minimalism of smoldering swing that is captivating to say the least. A subtle yet moving sense of romance combined with an organic swing adds great depth to the chemistry within the ensemble be it in trio or quartet settings. The spatial context of lyrical poetry in motion is a beautiful thing. While ECM has long been noted for their pristine sound quality, the majority of the work was written in the home Johnson and Elias share and it is this transference of comfortable aesthetics that firmly ground Swept Away with that special lyrical sense of purpose.
The title track "Swept Away" is an intimate if not introspective tune from Elias to a more engaging melodic flow of "B is for Butterfly." One of the more interesting harmonic adventures is the Eastern influenced "One Thousand and One Nights" which contains a unique dynamic tension thanks to the ability of Elias to shift meter on the fly without losing the dramatic effect of the melody. A tune born from a deep and incredibly rich sonic color palette. The Johnson tune "Midnight Blue" may well be the epitome of what "last call" would sound like if set to music. "Midnight Blue" is a perfectly placed tune contributing to the addictive ebb and flow found within Swept Away. Not to be out done, Johnson virtuoso talent shines on an acoustic bass solo of the classic American folk song "Shenandoah" which is a perfect ending to a stellar release. Joe Lovano contributes a deceptively subtle zen like approach throughout the release, less is more and no notes are wasted. Joey Baron plays with the finesse of a highly skilled surgeon adding just the right amount of well placed nuance when required.
An amazing performance from a quartet that easily ranks as one of the best of the last ten years.
Brent Black @criticaljazz
as with virtually all my reviews, i received a promotional copy for critical review however i would highly recommend this to the average consumer.