Marc Johnson, Eliane Elias ‘Swept away’ (ECM) 5/5

Former Bill Evans trio bassist Marc Johnson had a meteoric start ot his career performing in such esteemed company and has since performed with the who’s who of contemporary jazz greats that takes in Stan Getz, Charles Lloyd, Gary Burton, Bill Frisell and Joe Lovano among many others. Eliane Elias is a Brazilian pianist who hails from the megatropolis of Sao Paulo and first came to attention internationally as part of the acoustic formation of Steps Ahead before becoming a leader in her own right, recording on virtually all the most prestigious jazz labels and currently on Blue Note. The musical and personal partnership between the co-leaders was cemented with the 2005 recording on ECM, ‘Shades of Jade’, but this new recording, partly in trio format, partly as a quartet with tenor titan Joe Lovano, surpasses anything previously and is a prime contender for the year’s finest jazz recording. The empathy between the musicians is self-evident, but it is the sheer all-round musicanship that is outstandingly good here. An immediate album highlight is the floating ‘Sirens of Titan’ which begins gently enough as a piano-saxohpoine duet, but suddenly shifts up a gear or two and Lovano in particular is at his most lyrical here. Middle Eastern hues are inventively conjured up on Elias’ composition ‘One thousand and one nights’ with blues-inflected tinges on piano while Elias even sounds a little like Tord Gustavsen on the quartet rendition of ‘When the sun comes up’. It is left to the glorious ballad ‘It’s time’ performed by the quartet to demonstrate how effortlessly this formation interacts and the pure simplicity of approach is at times breathtaking. Compositions are divided between five from Elias, three from Johnson and two jointly written and there is a total absence of egotism on this album which simply enhances the general feel good factor of the listener. Exquisite sound recording which is as good as anything this writer has heard on ECM. Tim Stenhouse

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