Kurt Ellenberger

Songs from Far West

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Pianist Kurt Ellenberger, a native of Windsor, Ontario, Canada, traveled to Appleton, WI, to record this CD at the Lawrence University Chapel for distribution by a label based in the Netherlands. Go figure, but sometimes it takes a circuitous route to get your music out. He wrote five of the seven compositions, with musical support from bassist David Dunn and drummer Dane Richeson. A consistent quality throughout suggests Keith Jarrett's elongated, meandering, and introspective artistry. Meditative rather than flashy, it is a byproduct of Ellenberger's idiosyncratic but lovely phrasings and musings. It's also clear this music was recorded in a church. The first two extended numbers, 12- and ten-plus-minutes long, set the tone. "Larkspur in Aspen" has wisps of bass drums while Ellenberger builds blocks of sound within a Jarrett-like construct from a midtempo framework. "Herr Mann's Fell'd" continues the steadily streaming rhythms and flowing piano, rather ECM-ish. "Internal Presence" goes deeper and slower, "Sorcerer's Apprentice" picks up to an easy swing, and "Far West" is the most pronounced rhythmically with swing samba patterns. The pianist tackles Duke Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood" with reverent respect as if gently blowing fluffed seeds off a dandelion. The surprise is a reading of Paul Hindemith's "Nobilissima Visione," as Ellenberger captures the sober, crystalline shards of light so typical of Hindemith's concept of neo-classicism with jazz inferences, here quite warm and effusive. This is not swinging jazz in the traditional sense, but a marker for the kind of improvisation so well defined by Keith Jarrett and currently being explored by Brad Mehldau. Listeners can look forward to where Ellenberger takes it from his perspective.

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