Steve Tibbetts ‘Life Of’ CD (ECM) 4/5

Does ECM do esoteric? Of course they do and when an album is as engaging and as enjoyable a listening pleasure as this album unquestionably is, any doubts one might ever have had on the sometimes quirky selections of artists made rapidly evaporate. Guitarist and pianist Steve Tibbetts excels on this superlative journey into folk and improvisational territory. Is it folk, jazz, or minimalist? If so, who cares when the musicians effortlessly weave together the disparate strands and come up with an album replete with contrasting emotional moods. Ten of the pieces revolve around the theme, ‘Life of… plus’ and invariably they segue into one other, conveying a continuum of music that is at once admirable and leaves the listener with a floating feeling of deep satisfaction. Several stand out, with the percussive, ‘Life of Lowell’, the delicate, ‘Life of Dot’, and the Metheny-esque, ‘Life of someone’, topping a truly outstanding offering. Aiding Tibbetts along the way are handpan player and general percussionist, Marc Anderson, and cellist and drone practitioner, Michelle Kinney. These intimate and refined pieces are book ended by the introductory, ‘Bloodwork’, with minimalist musings on guitar and piano and an earthy, organic beginning to the album as a whole, and by the strong folk-blues feel to both, ‘End again and, ‘Start again’. A candidate for album of the year.

Tim Stenhouse