Pat Metheny/Jan Garbarek/Gary Burton ‘Hommage à Eberhard Weber’ (ECM) 4/5

hommage-à-eberhardGerman bassist Eberhard Weber is one of the major figures in the development of European jazz in the post-WWII era and it is therefore only fitting that on the occasion of his seventy-fifth anniversary, an extra special musical tribute should be paid to him, a concert in Stuttgart in January of this year from which the music here emanates. From his debut on ECM in 1974 with the evocative ‘The Colours of Chloë’, Weber has enjoyed a varied career with numerous collaborations including a tenure as part of the Gary Burton band between 1974 and 1976, membership of Solstice in the mid-1970s with Jan Garbarek and Jon Christensen, participation on Pat Metheny’s second ECM album, ‘Watercolors’, and, longest of all, an integral part of Jan Garbarek’s group from 1982 thorough to 2007. Little wonder, then, that most of these colossal talents would be willing to travel many a mile to be present and actively participate in the evening’s proceedings. The centrepiece of the album is the mammoth thirty minute title track, composed by Pat Metheny, and featuring the guitarist with an array of string instruments including his favourite toy, the synclavier guitar. While Eberhard Weber is no longer physically able to participate live (sadly he suffered a stroke that has restricted new musical activity), thanks to the wonders of technology, his bass has been super-imposed, with the highly creative use of sampling technique of different performances that are subsequently chopped and changed into something new. This is precisely what Pat Metheny has done to create an entirely new composition and it is marvellous to hear how the delicate and melodic guitar weaves its way through with the SWR Big Band, conducted by Helge Sunde which is in fine form. As a whole, the piece ebbs and flows, but develops into a more uptempo vehicle and in so doing changes direction, that shift indicated by the use of horns. The musical settings here oscillate between intimate and large, and accordingly Metheny moves from acoustic to electric with solos not consigned to him and Gary Burton and Jan Garbarek both making useful contributions. One valid critique that could be made is that, as a whole, the Weber compositions are most suited to a chamber jazz context with a smaller group in which they flourished originally and it is true to say that the use of a large orchestra does change the nature of those pieces if not their original attractiveness. That said, a major feature of the album are the beautiful orchestrations by Mike Gibbs on ‘Maurizius’ and the album is never anything less than a genuine and deeply emotive tribute to the bassist and his compositional skills.

Tim Stenhouse

Eberhard Weber