Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
ECM Records, based in Germany, is more than just another jazz label; it's a genre unto itself. Led by the example of Keith Jarrett, the ECM musicians have been pursuing an understated acoustic jazz influenced by romantic classical music. They have emphasized compositional structure and instrumental virtuosity.
Sunday night at the Cellar Door, two ECM artists, vibraphonist Gray Burton and guitarist Bill Connors, played with understated but impressive skill.
But Burton, playing with a topflight quartet. maintained the rhythmic drive and melodic structure of compositions by Chick Corea, Steve Swallow and Jim Hall. Connors, playing mostly improvised solo acoustic guitar, overdid the classical techniques and underdid the jazz rhythms and melodic shape.
On Carla Bley's haunting ballad, "Dreams So Real," Burton's trumpeter, Tiger Okoshi, sustained elegant notes that eventually squirmed away. Burton came in underneath with a spray of shimmering vibraphone notes.
Burton pedaled his notes so each one overlapped into the next. These translucent layers were anchored by the restless dark notes of Steve Swallow's electric bass and Bob Moses' constant slapping with the drum brushes.
As in all the pieces, the four musicians consistently challenged and responded to each other, but all within the forward momentum of the theme. There were no random solos and no flourishes just for show. Apparently Burton has learned well how to control the balance and shape of a composition from his former partner, Jarrett.