Eberhard Weber – The Jubilee Concert (2016)

by | Nov 4, 2016 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews

Weber – The Jubilee Concert (2016)

A heartfelt tribute to a pioneer of European jazz!

Performers: Eberhard Weber, Pat Metheny, Gary Burton, Jan Garbarek, Paul McCandless, SWR Big Band
Studio: WDR/Jazz Haus (Distr. by Naxos Germany)
Director: Thorsten Hubruch
Video: 16:9 Color
Audio:  PCM stereo (24-bit/48K)
Length: 90 min.
TrackList: Resume; Touch; Tubingen; Maurizius; Street Scenes; Hommage; Killer Joe; Notes After An Evening
Ratings: Audio: ***      Video: ***     Overall: ***1/2

Eberhard Weber is best known as a double-bassist and jazz composer from Germany. He became renowned as a vital recording artist for ECM Records. In addition to solo projects, he collaborated with various ECM stars including Gary Burton, Ralph Townes and Pat Metheny. He became an icon to European jazz. One of his innovations was a five-string acoustic bass guitar (the additional string tuned to C), and he became an early proponent for the solid-body electric doublebass. His musical stylings ranged from traditional jazz to avant-garde fusion, minimalism, ambient music and chamber jazz. The dozen or so ECM releases were hailed for their versatility and unique utilization of ostinato. Unfortunately, his career was cut short by a serious illness in 2007.

As a tribute to this revered player, WDR/Jazz Haus has released a DVD (The Jubilee Concert) of a concert featuring several ECM artists, and the SWR Big Band. As Weber walks out gingerly onto the stage, the concert begins. Jan Gabarek opens (“Resume”) with a moody saxophone run consisting of some Eastern motifs. A prior recording of Weber on doublebass is introduced as an atmospheric counterpoint. Then, vibraphonist Gary Burton arrives and delivers on another Weber composition “Touch”. He is joined by the SWR Big Band as they add great shading and flourishes. His trademark four-mallets technique is flawless, establishing a distinctive pulse.

As each soloist approaches the stage, they pause for an embrace with Weber. Paul McCandless joins on “Tubingen” with an hypnotic English horn. Burton (who offers another great solo) stays on as well. As the set progresses, the arrangements are expanded. On “Marizious” there is a classical piano intro with Burton in counterpoint. The song builds in intensity with subtle time changes. McCandless and Burton anchor the soloing and excel on “Street Scenes”. This is a full big band, with a driving, percolating tempo.

To make a special night better, Pat Metheny joins the ensemble. Inspired by Weber, “Hommage” is a diverse thirty-one minute performance that combines genres with various textures of internal articulation. As Metheny’s inimitable guitar rings out, a video of Eberhard performing on the screen materializes. The guest of honor gets to jam at his own benefit. If feels like a New Age jazz suite with big band muscle. Weber’s solos represent “movement” segues. There is enough grandiosity to carry the momentum. And the repeating use of Weber video has an emotional resonance. Weber gets to participate as he joins Burton on vibraphone for the Bennie Golson classic, “Killer Joe”. The blues jazz themes give the big band ample room to demonstrate the pure jazz vibe, including trumpet and trombone solos. The finale is a flowing, harmonious Weber composition that is hauntingly captured.

The audio portion of this DVD is very good and the stereo separation is excellent. The band mix is never muddled and the vibraphone is distinct, however the video is uneven. The close ups of the instruments and musicians (especially the fingering) are great. But some of the stage footage is awash in yellow light and often appears dingy. But this is a heartfelt tribute to an international jazz star.

—Robbie Gerson



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