François Couturier – Tarkovsky Quartet – ECM 2159, 62:27 [Distr. by Universal] ****:
Jazz musician François Couturier completed studies in classical music and musicology in the early 1970s, and was influenced by the host of “free” improvisors like Paul Bley, Chick Corea and Joachim Kühn. His first appearance on ECM was in 1994, and his subtle piano combined with the players now making up the Tarkovsky Quartet (Anja Lechner,violoncello/ Jean Louis Matinier, accordion/ Jean Marc Larché, soprano saxophone) made quite a splash on their first collaboration in 2005 on Nostalghia – Song for Tarkovsky. This is the third of three Tarkovsky-oriented CDs. [Perhaps listening to this will whet your appetite to view one of Tarkovsky’s unique films, such as Stalker or Solaris…Ed.]
Tarkovsky is Andrei Tarkovsky (April 4, 1932 – December 29, 1986), Soviet filmmaker, from whose films the inspiration for this music is drawn. It is not an insult to say that much of this music sounds like a soundtrack; one would expect as music when such a visual art serves as the basis for any music. But it is more than that. Though not jazz in the more traditional sense of the word, Couturier employs the deep recesses of his classical training, coupled with a minimalistic—as opposed to “minimalism”—sensibility that allows the music to unfold naturally and even in a non-improvisatory way that allows for maximum aural impact. We do have time to reflect on it.
ECM is quite consistent in their sound recordings, and no one captures small ensembles better than they do. Judging performances on an album of improvisations is very difficult from a technical standpoint; suffice it to say that the sum of the musical components is what we are meant to hear here, and the totality of the effort is very fine indeed. [Another of the increasing number of discs which we’re hard-pressed whether put in the Classical or Jazz sections…Ed.]
Track List:
A celui qui a vu l’ange
San Galgano
La passion selon Andreï
Doktor Faustus
La main et l’oiseau
De l’autre côté du miroir
—Steven Ritter