Scottish National Jazz Orchestra
celebrates the music of ECM
with Arild Andersen
No musician is better equipped to pay tribute to the ECM sound than tonight’s guest soloist, Arild Andersen. The Norwegian double bass master’s huge toned and superbly agile playing has been associated with the prestigious German label almost since its very beginnings.
He made his ECM debut on the label’s seventh release, Afric Pepperbird by fellow Norwegian, saxophonist Jan Garbarek and of ECM’s first twenty releases in its initial eighteen months of existence, Andersen appeared on no fewer than five, marking the first ECM sessions under their own names of saxophonist Robin Kenyatta, pianist Bobo Stenson and guitarist Terje Rypdal as well as charting progress with Garbarek on the album Sart.
Thereafter, Andersen has been synonymous with a label that has changed the way people listen to jazz, perhaps even the way musicians play jazz, and has certainly taken the way jazz is marketed and presented to an entirely different level through eye-catching art work.
As has been the case with countless other players, the pristine sound quality and painstaking attention to detail that ECM founder Manfred Eicher brought to jazz from his experiences in recording classical music have brought out the best in Andersen, who by the time he recorded his first ECM album as a bandleader, Clouds in My Head, aged twenty-nine in 1975, was a hugely experienced musician.
Originally destined for a career in electronic engineering, which possibly explains his mastery and imaginative use of musical technology, Andersen studied music privately with George Russell, the American composer and orchestra leader who lived in Scandinavia during the 1960s, and jammed with future Arild Andersen Quartet saxophonist Knut Riisnaes before beginning a six-year stay in Jan Garbarek’s group in 1967.
As a freelance bassist of conspicuous ability, Andersen was seldom idle in his time off from Garbarek. Touring Americans including Archie Shepp, Hampton Hawes, Marion Brown and the aforementioned Kenyatta called on his services and when Andersen appeared with Don Cherry’s Eternal Rhythm Band during 1968, Cherry expressed his admiration for his beautiful bass sound and predicted that much more would be heard from Andersen.
When his tenure with Garbarek ended following the Triptykon album, leading the saxophonist on a path to eventual international stardom, Andersen investigated possibilities in the home of jazz, working in New York with Sam Rivers, Paul Bley, Sheila Jordan and Roswell Rudd and even undertook a Canadian tour with Stan Getz.
Norway called him back, however, and the ECM connection resulted in three quartet albums, Clouds in My Head, Shimri and Green Shading into Blue, that established Andersen as not just an extraordinary bassist and a majorly talented composer but also as a talent spotter and a musician with a huge breadth of interest.
The pianist in his first quartet, Jon Balke, went on to become an ECM artist in his own right, as did Bill Frisell and Nils Petter Molvaer after exposure in Andersen’s groups and subsequent ECM releases have found Andersen collaborating with Kenny Wheeler, Paul Motian, Ralph Towner, Nana Vasconcelos, Markus Stockhausen and Andy Sheppard. He has also explored Norwegian folk music on Sagn, integrated a string quartet into his band on Hyperborean, rocked out with Alphonse Mouzon, re-investigated the piano trio with Vassillis Tsabropulos, directed the brilliant Masqualero quartet and quintet, introduced drum machines to ancient Greek drama on Electra, and most recently, enjoyed Album of the Year success with his Live at Belleville album, featuring his trio with drummer Paolo Vinaccia and SNJO’s director, Tommy Smith.
On all of these Andersen’s bass has sung, purred and resonated with consummate assurance and wonderful invention and on tonight’s repertoire too, which Andersen, in consultation with Tommy Smith, has chosen and with many of whose composers Andersen has close associations, you can expect double bass playing that makes Andersen the leader in a field of one.