ECM is finally streaming, and I’m here to tell you what’s good

As some of you might have heard, the legendary Munich label ECM finally jumped on the streaming bandwagon. Yes, Manfred, I wholeheartedly agree that the beautiful music your label publishes demands to be listened on CDs and LPs, but these are harder and harder to take on a plane. With iPod Classic not sold anymore and iTunes morphing into Apple Music, music lovers will soon be left with only 3rd party solutions to keep actual music files on their smartphones. So thank you, herr Eicher, for allowing us to stream your whole catalog in 96 kbps Ogg Vorbis Spotify streams. (Did Keith Jarrett sign off on that btw? Nevermind, I know he didn’t. )

The New York Times recently published a list of their 21 “essential” ECM albums, and I agree with many of their picks. But at the end of the day they are just The New York Times, so what would they know? Here are my favorite ECM albums, which you should listen to at once. My list is of course highly subjective, but my taste is known to be notoriously better than NYT’s. Continue reading “ECM is finally streaming, and I’m here to tell you what’s good”

Jazz Music in 2016

2016 was, as The Verge put it, “a good year for weird jazz.”1 I’d go even further: both 2015 and 2016 show that jazz is an evolving genre, and that it became more exciting than ever before. Influences of hip-hop and electronic music are becoming more visible, new artists pop-up in places you’d never expect (I’m looking at you, LA) and push music into new territories. So while I do appreciate The Verge’s recommendations (especially Shabaka and The Ancestors),2 I had to add some of my own. All of them represent that very shift in jazz’s esthetics, so if you’re looking for a review of Redman & Mehldau duo, you’ll be a bit disappointed. If you enjoy fresh sound, however, read on. Continue reading “Jazz Music in 2016”

Best Jazz Albums of 2015

In the spirit of 2015 summaries, I felt like sharing my recommendations for the best, in my view, jazz albums of yesteryear. The list is, of course, highly subjective and biased towards contemporary and European jazz.1 I also admit that the great majority of what I listen to comes from ACT Music label, since many of my favorite artists record for them, and thus it’s somewhat easier for me to explore their catalogue. Nevertheless, I tried to be broader in my picks, which was really easy this year thanks to some very surprising albums from relatively unknown artists. Below are my 6 favorites, with three in the “must listen” category additionally marked with a “💣” (how did internet function without emoji, eh?). Continue reading “Best Jazz Albums of 2015”

Ornette Coleman Dies at 85

It is with great sadness that I read the news about Ornette Coleman’s death. Ornette was one of the first jazz musicians I ever heard of, an artist that inspired my love for jazz but also profoundly expanded my understanding of improvisation and free jazz.

There are a lot of great anecdotes about Ornette Coleman, like those about other musicians reportedly paying him not to play during his early days, and those about him studying music theory in an elevator while he had a part time job as an elevator operator.1 To me the greatest story about Ornette Coleman is his concert in Warsaw on July 18th, 2007, which was the first “big” jazz concert I ever went to. I remember I needed to get a leave from my part time call-center job explaining to my manager who Ornette Coleman is,2 and that I actually needed to save up the money two months in advance to be able to afford two tickets. And when the day came, an elderly man walked on stage of the Roma Music Theatre in Warsaw, and, together with his quartet, performed the most energetic jazz performance I have ever heard in my life, which was even more surprising given the fact that he was already 77 at the time and had difficulty walking.

It’s a great loss for the world of improvised music, but luckily Ornette Coleman’s legacy lives on strong, with so many records, concerts and young musicians inspired by his genius.


  1. Ornette Coleman didn’t have any formal music training, and did not know, among other things, that he needs to transpose the saxophone parts before playing with a piano. 
  2. I also remember being shocked that my American manager did not know who Ornette Coleman was. 

Jazz icon Charlie Haden dies at 76

I am very sad to read that Charlie Haden died last Friday.1 He was one of the first jazz musicians I ever heard about, when my dad bought the now legendary “Beyond the Missouri Sky” (Verve 1997) record, and I immediately fell in love with his great bass lines and compositions. Then I learned about Charlie Haden’s history with Ornette, and I also realized he played with Keith Jarrett’s quartet in the 70s. A versatile, curious musician who always enriched any jazz album he appeared on with his lyrical bass lines. His death is a terrible loss. Seems sadly prophetic that his latest duo album with Jarrett is titled “Last Dance” (ECM 2014).

Below are a couple of my favorite tracks by Charlie Haden or with him as a sideman. Listen and admire.

Continue reading “Jazz icon Charlie Haden dies at 76”

Wayne Shorter Quartet at USF Verftet (NattJazz 2014)

I first heard about Wayne Shorter when my dad bought the brilliant “1+1” (Verve 1997) album he recorded with Herbie Hancock. I listened to it and was blown away – the soprano saxophone in the hands of Wayne Shorter sounded like nothing I heard before. I had a “jazz band” in my music school at the time,1 and I told the guys “Look, Shorter and Hancock play without drums and bass, so we can do it too!”, but obviously we couldn’t, and we all quickly understood that we know nothing about improvisation.

I haven’t bought any Wayne Shorter records for a couple of years. Some time ago I bought two of his classic albums – “Juju” (Blue Note 1964) and “Speak No Evil” (Blue Note 1965) – and enjoyed them, but of course this was the old post- hard-bop sound of late 60s, significantly different to Shorter’s current music which I didn’t know. That is, until last year’s release of his new2 quartet’s “Without a Net” (Blue Note 2013). Continue reading “Wayne Shorter Quartet at USF Verftet (NattJazz 2014)”

Keith Jarrett Trio 30th Anniversary Tour at De Doelen, Rotterdam

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Last Thursday I went to a Keith Jarrett Trio concert in Rotterdam. It was probably the best jazz concert experience I’ve ever had.

The very first “contemporary” jazz1 album I’ve listened to was “Standards, Vol. 1” (ECM 1983). My dad bought it when I was a teenager and played it to me, because I wanted to know other kinds of jazz than swing and bebop. I didn’t like it at first. It seemed chaotic and difficult to listen to. The melodies I knew were lost somewhere, and I didn’t understand how is this interpretation better than good old big bands. The more I listened to it, though, the more I understood, and the more I liked it. You could perhaps say that Keith Jarrett Trio’s standards taught me most things I know about jazz. I learned a lot about how a jazz trio works, how the bass underlines the chords of the piano, and how the drummer keeps things in control. But most importantly, Keith Jarrett Trio’s records opened my mind to a whole new kind of music: contemporary improvisation.

Continue reading “Keith Jarrett Trio 30th Anniversary Tour at De Doelen, Rotterdam”

Coursera Improvisation Course (with Gary Burton)

Today is the deadline for Assignment 1 of Coursera’s Jazz Improvisation Course, which I’m taking. I was about to drop out, because my violin technique isn’t good enough, and my music theory is rusty at best, but since it’s a public holiday today here in Norway, I had a whole day to spend on playing. Continue reading “Coursera Improvisation Course (with Gary Burton)”