Florian Weber – Lucent Waters (Releasedate: 02.11.2018)
Florian Webers second ECM appearance, following a critically-acclaimed duo recording
(Alba, 2016) with Markus Stockhausen, finds the gifted German pianist leading a newly
formed quartet through a programme of his compositions. Openness is key here:
whether paying tribute to mentor Lee Konitz on Honestlee, impressionistically
conveying the glittering Melody of a Waterfall, or generating impactful outcomes from
fragments of material on a conceptual piece like Butterfly Effect, the intention is to
encourage fresh responses from the participants.
I see this album as a meeting of very independently-minded musicians, says Weber.
Its the first time Ive had a band where what particularly interests me is the difference
between the players and their approaches to improvising. He cites the contrast between
the soulful, grounded quality of Linda May Han Ohs bass playing and Nasheet Waitss
fleet, free-flowing drums. Linda and Nasheet are very different characters, but they
balance each other in their exchanging of energies. The Lucent Waters line-up marks a
first collaboration between Weber and Waits, the drummer being recommended by
producer Manfred Eicher for the project. I liked very much Nasheets playing on Ralph
Alessis ECM albums [Baida and Quiver], those are great recordings, so the idea
resonated with me.
Linda May Han Oh and Florian Weber first worked together in trio with Lee Konitz a
decade ago. That was the beginning of a vivid exchange of ideas that has continued in
other contexts. For myself, working with Lee night after night taught me what it really
means to be spontaneous in the music. Theres a difference, Weber suggests, between
the contemporary emphasis on self-expression and exploring what is actually there,
implied in the material and in the interaction of the players.
Weber and Ralph Alessi have been in and out of each others groups for more than 15
years. Latterly, Webers been playing in Alessis trio with Dan White. If I look at my
career to date, Ive mostly tried to play with people that I feel close to, that I understand
where theyre coming from, emotionally. Friends, of course, can still challenge each
other: Ralph always says that my writing and playing pushes him to play differently.
This is strikingly evident on Fragile Coccoon, where an initially gentle piece bursts open
to feature the trumpet in a blazing admixture of lyricism and intensity, framed by Waits
dramatically powerful drums.
There are, says Weber, several factors influencing the pieces gathered here. Pieces
emerge, a lot of times, as a feeling or a perspective on some aspect of my life in this
case the twilight atmosphere of the touring musicians world, and all the ups and downs
of that. Then theres the compositional aspect: Im always trying to create or shape
something which hasnt, to my knowledge, been there before.
The degree of freedom given to the players differs from piece to piece. On Brilliant
Waters, for instance, I didnt give them much more than the title: thats a free, open
piece, although we end organically on one note, which does sound composed. I did tell
the group that I wanted the album to have a sense of narrative, with interconnecting
links, of some kind. A motif that appears in one piece might recur in another piece,
perhaps reversed. Atmospheric ideas return, two pieces may have a similar instrumental
emphasis at certain points, or a soundscape may be similar. As a bandleader I think
theres a fine line between giving musicians too much information and not giving them
enough: I wanted the musicians to make their own thing, too.
Nasheet Waits has the freest role in Melody of a Waterfall, which takes its inspiration
partly from traditional Japanese drum ensembles: I like the clarity and focus of that
music, its stillness as well as its passion and energy. I find Japanese culture and its ideas
fascinating and have tried to understand it insofar as one can, as a westerner.
From Cousteaus Point Of View references some recent diving experiences: The
changed three- dimensional perspectives and transparency are central to this tune.
Musically its 3 against 7, both times going on at the same time, and youre not sure
which one you should follow. I like transparency, but too much of it can make the
mystery disappear. And I also like the mystery, just as I like the things that are not said,
and the notes not played.
Honestlee, dedicated to Lee Konitz (every time I meet Lee I learn something new
says Florian), incorporates some Lennie Tristano School ideas, but not Tristano-style
playing. It explores some ideas he had about lines and counterpoint. The piece also
takes impetus from drawings which Karlheinz Stockhausen made at Darmstadt. The
drawings illustrate some polyphonic concepts. I looked at them and immediately wanted
to write a tune. Wanting to dedicate something to Lee, the ideas converged. So we start
with lines and then go into open mode. Webers playing, exemplary throughout, is
particularly affecting here. (Konitz, on hearing this recording, has said Florian is one of
the most creative piano players I have ever played with. His music is totally free. He has
got the texture, the feeling, just beautiful. I am very touched by this music. It feels
divine to me.)
Born into a musical family in Detmold, Germany, in 1977, Florian Weber began playing
piano at the age of four, and by the time he graduated high school was appearing with
both jazz and classical ensembles. In Cologne he studied with Hans Ludemann and John
Taylor, before heading to the USA and further studies with teachers including Paul Bley,
JoAnne Brackeen, Danilo Pérez and Richie Beirach. In 2002 Weber founded Trio
Mensarah with bassist Jeff Denson and drummer Ziv Ravitz. By 2006, Lee Konitz was
playing with the group which subsequently formed the basis of his New Quartet, touring
widely and recording a prizewinning album at New Yorks Village Vanguard. In 2011
Weber founded the group Biosphere with guitarist Lionel Loueke, bassist Thomas Morgan
and drummer Dan Weiss. Florian Weber also continues to play with trumpeter Markus
Stockhausen. The intuitive music of their ECM album Alba was praised for its natural
warmth and character by The Times of London. For further details, including details of
upcoming dates, visit www.florianweber.net and www.ecmrecords.com
Lucent Waters was recorded at Studios La Buissonne in the South of France in
September 2017 and produced by Manfred Eicher.