Django Bates’ Belovèd ‘The Study Of Touch’ (ECM) 4/5

What a departure from his 1980’s leader albums with Sticky Fingers and even more recent big band recordings with for example the Frankfurt Radio Big Band. This is a new, mature (not that he was not mature previously. Just that there was a youthful exuberance to his earlier work) sound and with a trio that came about while Bates was serving as a music lecturer in Copenhagen in 2005. Double bassist Petter Elda and drummer Peter Bruun formed a trio and first recorded together in 2010 with, ‘Beloved Bird’, a tribute to Charlie Parker, and revisited the experience on, ‘Confirmation’ (2012). The latest recording is their third as a collective, but their debut for ECM, and this time round all but tow are original pieces, with just one of these being written from the pen of Parker. 
The mood is reflective and it is the piano sound of Bill Evans that springs to mind, with a lightness of touch that Evans would surely have approved of. Bates,however, has his own individual voice and this has undoubtedly been greatly aided by his participation in so many disparate musical projects. Bates’ own compositional talents are wonderfully showcased here, as on the extremely attractive theme of, ‘Giorgiantics’, which is a real favourite, or on the charming balladry work of, ‘Little Petherick’. What seems to have gelled so well here is the apparent simplicity of the compositions, yet which underneath open up to a veritable Pandora’ box of musical substance.
Some of the pieces come across as classical standards that were seemingly destined for Broadway, as with the gorgeous, ‘Peonces as promised’, and here piano and bass work wonders in tandem. The music has a spontaneity to it illustrated in the freedom with which the trio stretch out on, ‘This world’, a number that has a mid-1960’s Miles Davis quality with Herbie Hancock in the leaders’ chair, and on, ‘We are not lost. We are simply finding our way’, which is an apt title for what the trio is seeking to achieve. 
Django Bates has sprung a real surprise with this recording, and a most welcome one as this year draws to a close, and one longs for this outfit to be heard in a live setting.   

Tim Stenhouse