Headlined by the husband and wife duo of Marc Johnson and Eliane Elias on Double Bass and Piano respectively, this is a really pleasant set of original pieces that sound like the late night New York, where they were recorded.
Although there is improvisation, bass and piano sound so much together in their thinking and are so melodic as soloists that compositions merge seamlessly as they are extended. A lot of this set is the trio with Joey Baron, adding very subtle drums and Joe Lovano doesn't play on every track. Even when Sax does appear, it is in the same melodic style and there is nothing raucous or dissonant about the playing - it is all laid back and relaxed. Not so much "Swept Away" as gently transported to an atmosphere of late night, smoky bars.
The sound, as you would expect from ECM is superb and the subtle reverb adds to the atmosphere, while obscuring nothing. Bass in particular is well-recorded and Marc Johnson's tone is of the highest order - adding solid support and melodic solos - the last track is a solo Double Bass feature. Piano is also sumptuous in sound quality and the invention in the playing stands out as interesting, but always highly melodic and certain.
This is Jazz of the highest quality, but which has nothing spiky or noisy to put anybody off - just great playing and atmospheric tunes. In many ways this is the epitome of what ECM is all about - some of the best musicians in the world, recorded sympathetically and lovingly.
I think that the ECM label is probably the most progressive of the Jazz labels, they have a huge stable of European artists and produce great albums , this is no exception a real lovely piece of 'evening jazz' very relaxing no 'hard corners. Even the artwork on the covers are worth looking at, wonderful stuff.
I had being eyeing this CD for some time before I finally purchased it and loved it from the first time of playing it. Excellent musicians playing a great and quite varied set of compositions, although one could never say it really cuts loose. There is an obvious empathy between the four players which leads to a musical treat.
Cool late-night jazz (without being schmalzy!). Great sound and atmosphere. No pyrotechnics, and all the better for it. Just great empathy between the players, as others have noted. Grab a copy and kick back!