Bassist Arild Andersen may not be one of ECM's best-known bandleaders (to Americans, that is), but that hasn't stopped him from amassing an impressive catalog as one of the label's senior statesmen. Andersen himself comments in the liner notes at how fortunate and surprised he was when looking back over his catalog and realizing how many younger players graced his sides. The evidence, however, is that Andersen is too humble: his guidance is like a beacon in bringing the best out of many who would become leaders in their own right. A fine example is on "Vanilje," which opens the album and comes from the Masqualero album. Here Andersen, Jon Balke, and drummer Jon Christensen host two stunning players on the front line, young saxophonist Tore Brunborg and a fresh-faced Nils Petter Molvaer on trumpet. The veteran trio led by Andersen's trademark melodic rhythmic attack brings the horn players to the fore and creates a wide space for them to explore and articulate harmonically. Elsewhere, as on "Svev," from his trio date with Ralph Towner and Nana Vasconcelos, Andersen appears not as an equal third but as the negotiator between rhythm and melody, the axis on which the two poles revolve. From the Molde Concert disc, on which the bassist is teamed with Bill Frisell, fusion drummer Alphonse Mouzon, and pianist John Taylor, Andersen plays his double bass as the true forceful foil for Frisell's angular urgency and Taylor's modal inquiry, but it is Andersen's solo where he offers his bop chops, which steal the tune. Featuring 13 tracks, there are more selections on this set than on most of the Rarum titles, and that's a good thing, as it showcases the wildly diverse settings -- all of them successful -- in which Andersen has placed himself in order to articulate an ambitious and varied vision.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek