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viernes, 13 de enero de 2017

Michel Benita / Ethics - River Silver (2016)


Otro notable disco del sello ECM, el Canario ya presentó a Michel Benita y ahora, con el acompañamiento del proyecto "Ethics", llegamos al disco 2016 de esta agrupación que combina el jazz con la World Music de una manera notable, en una experimentación guiada por el contrabajo y la gracia del argelino Michel Benita.

Artista: Michel Benita / Ethics
Álbum: River Silver
Año: 2016
Género: jazz-fusión, World Music,
Duración: 49:23
Nacionalidad: Multinacional


Lista de Temas:
1. Back From The Moon
2. River Silver
3. I See Altitudes
4. Off The Coast
5. Yeavering
6. Toonari
7. Hacihi Gatsu
8. Lykken
9. Snowed In

Alineación:
- Matthieu Michel / flugelhorn
- Mieko Miyazaki / koto
- Eivind Aarset / guitar, electronics
- Michel Benita / double bass
- Philippe Garcia / drums.




El álbum y el proyecto es un ejemplo de fusión muy lograda entre personas de distintos países, formas de vida y criterios musicales muy distintos entre si. Un jazz sereno, contemplativo, no pierde la calma ni siquiera en las partes mas trepidantes, Verdaderamente excepcional es el clima que genera. Música universal. Bello, ambicioso, cosmopolita, fascinante, sofisticado, son algunos de los adjetivos que puedo endilgarle a este excelente trabajo que se agrega a la Biblioteca Sonora, llevado a cabo por un elyenco multinacional, en pos de derrumbar fronteras musicales y las de la mente (las más difíciles de derrocar).
Vamos con los comentarios de terceros...


Otro nuevo paso adelante en la carrera del brillante bajista argelino Michel Benita.
Asi podríamos reseñar este ‘River Silver’ con el que debuta, como líder, Michel Benita en ECM. Después de haber trabajado junto a musicos de la calidad del saxofonista Andy Sheppard en este mismo sello Benita se pone a la cabeza de su propia banda Ethics un proyecto muy personal que ya le había proporcionado muy buenos resultados.
Ethics es un grupo de carácter internacional que incluye una interesante tocadora de koto, Mieko Miyazaki, que se encarga de marcar el carácter sonoro de este ‘River Silver’, un fiscornista suizo, Mathieu Michel, un guitarrista noruego de la calidad de Eivind Aarset y el batería francés aunque de orígenes hispanos Philippe García.
La música, un río de influencias, una corriente sonora creada con temas propios, una aportación de Mieko Miyazaki ‘Hacihi Gatsu’ y dos versiones. El ‘Yeavering’ de la gaitera de Northumberland Kathryn Tickell que toco en la Penguin Café Orchestra y un tema del compositor noruego y organista Eyvind Alnæs que vivió entre 1872 y 1932 ‘Lykken’.
Con todo este material Benita y su gente hacen un disco lírico, atmosférico que sigue la línea ya marcada en su inicial ‘Ethics’ del año 2010. A pesar de no haber vuelto a grabar juntos hasta este ‘River Silver’ todos ellos han seguido tocando en distintos proyectos no muy alejados y eso hace que al volverse a reunir todo continué fluyendo y sonando con una conjunción casi perfecta.
Todo es suave y sedoso en ‘River Silver’, todo apetece, aunque quizás se eche un poco de menos mas nervio y tensión en algunos momentos.
Es una grabación tranquila que esta muy marcada por la presencia de Mieko Miyazaki que con su koto toma el mando de la situación acompañada perfectamente por el fiscornio de Mathieu Michel que le da la perfecta replica, a esto añade la etérea guitarra y envolventes electrónicas del mago Eivind Aarset y ya te puedes imaginar a que te enfrentas.
Música relajada marca de la casa ECM. Musica preciosista, bella, perfecta en su ejecución y apta para su consumo en momentos de relax, calma y tranquilidad.
I. Ortega


Bueno pues no quería que se me pasara el recomendaros este enorme disco del contrabajista Michel Benita. Acaba de publicarlo y yo me he hecho rápidamente con él. Se llama River Silver. Es su primer trabajo para ECM, aquí de nuevo junto a su formación, Ethics, que para la ocasión son la arpista Mieko Miyazaki, el atmosférico guitarrista Eivind Aarset, el trompetista Matthieu Michel y la batería de Philippe Garcia, todos ellos dirigidos por la mano maestra de Michel Benita.
Yo lo he disfrutado mucho en una primera escucha, algunos cortes más que otros. El regusto al final es el de estar delante de un gran trabajo, sin duda uno de los mejores a nivel compositivo y de arreglos del contrabajista francés. Absolutamente recomendable. Pronto en LMR.
La Montaña Rusa




After two exemplary ECM discs in the company of Andy Sheppard, Michel Benita has an album with his own group. The Ethics band is international, and the Algiers-born bassist leads a line-up comprised of a flugelhornist from Fribourg, Switzerland, a koto player from Tokyo, a guitarist from Drøbak, Norway, and a French drummer who once lived in Turkey as a member of the Istanbul Symphony. The group’s music, correspondingly, flows - like the glistening river of the title - beyond borders. Alongside his own compositions and a piece by Mieko Miyazaki, Benita includes a tune from Northumbrian UK piper Kathryn Tickell and one from Norwegian composer and organist Eyvind Alnæs (1872-1932). A strongly lyrical tendency prevails, Mathieu Michel’s graceful flugelhorn foregrounded, with koto, bass and drums interacting creatively at the band’s core. Colours of folk and colours of jazz are blended in Michel Benita’s writing, multi-idiomatic in a very natural way . Eivind Aarset’s guitars and what Benita calls “organic electronics” gently envelop the music. The whole sound-picture is finely-realized in the responsive acoustics of the Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI, Lugano, where River Silver was recorded in April 2015, with Manfred Eicher producing. The album is issued in time for a European tour in January with concerts in France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Belgium.
ECM Reviews


It's no secret that music is something that can dissolve borders, transcend cultures, and speak with a language understood by all. That the decreasing size of the world has made it possible for artists from disparate countries to collaborate and create music that is truly greater than the sum of its parts—imbued not just with the qualities that each musician brings from his/her own culture, but from ones beyond their own as well—is also a given in the 21st century. But cross-cultural music was not such a common occurrence when ECM Records first opened its doors in 1969. Throughout the 1970s, the label brought together musicians from Norway, the USA and Germany (guitarist/pianist Ralph Towner's Solstice), Norway, Sweden and the USA (pianist Keith Jarrett's "Belonging" group) and Germany, Norway, England and the USA (bassist Eberhard Weber's Colours quartet), to name but three. Throughout the ensuing four-plus decades, the label as continued to not only support such collaborations, but to engender them.
But here, in the new millennium, it's just as common for cross-cultural groups to come to the label fully formed, with Michel Benita's group, Ethics, a perfect example. The Algiers-born/Paris-resident bassist's quintet includes Norwegian guitarist Eivind Aarset, whose deeply personal use of electronics to create distinctive sound worlds can not only be found on his own series of recordings including Dream Logic (ECM, 2012), but also in ECM-recorded projects belonging to saxophonist Andy Sheppard's Quartet (2015's Surrounded by Sea, which also includes Benita in its lineup), trumpeter Arve Henriksen (2008's Cartography), bassist Arild Andersen (2005's Electra) and Fourth World trumpeter Jon Hassell (2009's Last night the moon came dropping its clothes in the street ); Swiss-born flugelhornist Matthieu Michel (last heard by ECM fans on singer Susanne Abbuehl's wonderful 2013 album, The Gift); Japan-born, Parisian resident koto player Mieko Miyazaki; and French drummer Philippe Garcia.
That Ethics has six years of shared history together only makes its long overdue sophomore recording and ECM debut, River Silver, an even deeper, more profound experience than the harder-to-find (but worth the trouble) 2010 debut, Ethics (Zig Zag Territories). River Silver's nine-song repertoire—six by Benita, one by Miyazaki, one by Norwegian composer/keyboardist Eyvind Alnæs (1872-1932) and one by Northumbrian small pipes player and fiddler Kathryn Tickell—not only demonstrates Ethics' ability to transcend culture, but to transcend genre and time to become a near-spiritual experience. Ethics' remarkable joined-at-the-hip interaction also yields a bevy of surprises throughout River Silver, though never in ways that are overt or obvious. Instead, Ethics is a group that truly sounds like no other; its improvisational élan feels like it takes place at a sub-molecular level, where the collaborative empathy of its members is so deep, so pure that it's often difficult to tell what is scripted and what is not.
Miyazaki's "Hacihi Gatsu" is, perhaps, the best example of the kind of deep connection shared by Ethics' players, if only because it's a koto/double bass duo and, therefore, with its sparer context, more readily discernible. Miyazaki's sweeping koto is grounded by Benita's dark-hued bass, its rubato introduction a remarkable example of two musicians speaking with a single voice before its theme emerges, with time elastic still, as there duo continues to move in and out of tempo with remarkable synchronicity. The two also shuffle effortlessly between collective interplay and individual soloing, with each player moving seamlessly between supportive and featured roles.
Alnæs' "Lykken" follows "Hacihi Gatsu" with astute sequencing, segueing naturally with an opening solo from Benita that gradually pulls the rest of the group in, first with Michel's warm flugelhorn delivering its theme as Aarset creates an ethereal cushion of sound that has become something of a signature since he first came to international attention on albums including fellow Nordic trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer's classic Khmer (ECM, 1997) and Danish percussionist Marilyn Mazur's Small Labyrinths, released by the label the same year. Garcia's support is delicate—more textural than temporal on a composition where time is, once again, fluid. By the time Miyazaki joins in the entire group is improvising collectively, albeit over a defined context. Still, as she begins to play a repetitive figure and the group gradually dissolves, leaving just koto and double bass, its position on the recording—following, as it does, "Hacihi Gatsu," makes even more perfect sense.
Tickell's tradition-informed "Yeavering" references Benita's early days as a Bert Jansch/John Renbourn-inspired acoustic guitarist, before he left the instrument behind for double bass. Given the complexion of Ethics, it's considerably distanced from the fiddle-centric version on Tickell's Instrumental (Park Records, 2007) and yet, it still somehow retains the spirit of the original, even if it's flugelhorn and koto that deliver the singable melody, supported by Benita and Garcia's rubato support and Aarset's ethereal soundscaping.
Benita's six compositions are even more diverse. "Snowed In" closes the record on a more distinctly oriental note, with Benita and Miyazaki delivering a repetitive motif in unison, as Garcia's malletted toms and cymbals add both rhythm and color while Michel soars over Aarset's sweeping, swelling, ebbing and flowing changes as the piece assumes even more lyrical form towards the end of its six-minute run. By contrast, the opening "Back from the Moon" is one of River Silver's most propulsive and clearly structured tracks, as Garcia's near-military snare and Benita's "filling in the blank" support drives a singable theme doubled by Miyazaki and Michel, revolving around a harmonically shifting sequence of quadruplets, each series completed with two ascending notes, while Aarset, in addition to creating a paradoxically celestial harmonic foundation, adds brief fills that demonstrate his keen ears and astute in-the-moment judgement.
River Silver is not without its outré moments, though they occur less often than the melodism that imbues the majority of the recording. "Toonari" begins with a harsher, more jagged series of swelled chords and near-surf style lower register notes from Aarset, with Miyazaki's koto providing a series of bent chordal harmonies over Garcia's hand-driven drums. Anchored unshakable by Benita, Michel delivers some of his most angular playing of the set, but remains linked to the rest of the album by his complete avoidance of pyrotechnics: a modus operandi for a group with plenty to say but nothing to prove.
Beyond the material and the group's ability to lift it off the page and bring it to captivating life, mention must be made of the recital room ambience of Lugano's Auditorio Stelio Molo, one of a number of recording spaces that the label regularly employs. Given the way that ECM mixes its recordings, creating sonic spaces that are unlikely to be created naturally (while, at the same time, never feeling anything less so) it's difficult to know how closely what is heard on River Silver reflects what actually went down at the session. What is certain, however—based on a number of recordings made in the room, including Andy Sheppard's Trio Libero (ECM, 2012) and Surrounded by Sea—is that it's a room which encourages deeper listening and attention to details that often get lost elsewhere; Aarset's extreme upper-register harmonics, which soar stratospherically above the rest of the group on "Yeavering," for example, are so subtle that they could easily get lost, but clearly help shape a modernistic yet reverent look at this song steeped in tradition.
It is, in fact, Ethics' ability to allow individual instruments to come to the fore only to dissolve, once again, into the background so naturally that speaks to the clear connection shared by these five musicians. This is music that reaches deep into the soul in the subtlest of fashions; music largely possessed of calming quietude, its ability to mine such a subdued space for fifty minutes while remaining thoroughly captivating throughout is but one of River Silver's many charms. There are few groups that possess such a distinctive collective identity and unique language, but Benita's joining together of instruments from antiquity with those predicated on a most organic use of 21st century technology, and the bassist's collecting of musicians from so many disparate cultures to create music that is at once timeless, borderless and stylistically unfettered is what makes Ethics such a remarkable group...and River Silver such a wonderful, even more successful followup to its 2010 debut. Hopefully less time will pass before Ethics returns for a third recording.
John Kelman


The Algerian born bassist, Michel Benita, has been an active presence on the European jazz scene for three decades. Now Paris-based, he has played with guitarist Marc Ducret, Dino Saluzzi and Archie Shepp among many other well known artists. At the end of the 1990s he cofounded the ELB Trio with French guitarist Nguyên Lê and drummer Peter Erskine. With River Silver, Benita's group, Ethics, brings a global flavor that aligns with his past musical career choices as well as breaking with traditional group formations.
Benita's most obvious manipulation of group dynamics is the inclusion of cross-cultural Japanese koto player, Mieko Miyazaki. The thirteen-string—or, in some cases, seventeen—instrument is a rarity in jazz but, most notably, was half of the duo album 11 Compositions (Duo) (Leo Records, 1995) with Anthony Braxton and Brett Larner. Elsewhere, there are six degrees of separation within Ethics. Swiss trumpeter Matthieu Michel has been a long-time participant in the Vienna Art Orchestra and has worked with Benita in a number of groups. Matthieu had also fronted a quintet that included Ethics guitarist Eivind Aarset, who in turn, worked with Benita on Andy Sheppard's Surrounded By Sea (ECM, 2015). Drummer Philippe Garcia worked with Benita on a number of Blue Note recordings of French trumpeter Erik Truffaz.
The compositions on River Silver include six Benita originals. The pieces are intimate, even in the face of the unusual instrumentation and subtle electronics. Opening with "Back From The Moon," a lyrically spacey groove, Miyazaki's koto brings an animated feel to the tune before Michel's elegant solo cloaks the piece in a beautifully played melody. The title track is highlighted by the contrasting and blending of the koto's lucidity with Benita's deep bass. A dream-like "I See Altitudes" gives way to the eclectic "Off The Coast" where Miyazaki's folk infusion meets the stateliness of the flugelhorn and Aarset's muted electronics. "Toonari" is one of the more arresting of the pieces on the album with its quivering bird-like electronics at the start; the lightness of the koto is countered by Garcia's quietly thundering drums. "Snowed In" effectively conveys the melancholy resignation of confinement.
It can sometimes be the case in creative chamber music, that aesthetics build a psychological firewall. What may seem almost ambient initially, can reveal complexity on deeper listening. On first listen, River Silver seems dominated by Michel's flugelhorn and Miyazaki's koto but subsequent plays reveal far more depth and intricacy; involving melodies and evocative passages spring up, interweave, and fade. Each of these compositions are executed in a manner that is both graceful and intense. It's a testament to both the score and the improvisational skills of these artists.
Karl Ackermann

River Silver is double bassist Michel Benita's debut as a leader for ECM. He has recorded for the label previously with Andy Sheppard's groups. Benita formed Ethics in 2010, with the express purpose of wedding jazz to his love of global folk traditions. The lineup has been constant: guitarist/electronicist Eivind Aarset (with whom he plays in Sheppard's quartet), longtime associates Matthieu Michel on flügelhorn and Philippe Garcia on drums, and Mieko Miyazaki on koto. This is their second album; their first, 2010's Drastic, was issued by Zig Zag Territoires. Perhaps the most remarkable element in this band's sound is that its most "exotic" instrument doesn't play that role. It is harmonically integral to the body of these compositions, though Miyazaki is given plenty of improvisational space. Aarset's role -- prevalent on recordings he's appeared on in recent years -- is primarily one of a colorist; he clearly thrives in it. Michel's flügelhorn is the primary melodic instrument in much of this mix; his songlike approach to improvisation adds complexity as well as emotional depth. The music is dreamy and warm, but not necessarily all that abstract. "Back from the Moon" commences with snare and an electronic drone. It is swept into presence via strummed koto before Michel articulates the melody and Benita adds small melodic counter-flourishes. "Off the Coast" is rockist in places with Aarset's brooding electric guitar riff. He follows by doubling the melody with Michel; his guitar creates a bridge between the structure and improvisation. Miyazaki's koto is played more like a gourd banjo here, often touching on folk-blues. Her own "Haichi Gatsu" is almost hummable in the introduction before it unfolds as layers of harmonic interplay between Benita and the koto player evolve. Garcia adds a folk dance rhythmic vamp. "Yeavering" by Northumbrian piper Kathryn Tickell is ushered into being by Benita's bassline before Michel offers its lovely, haunted melody with a singer's sense of phrasing. His "voice" is highlighted by the koto's plucked chords and soft electric guitar effects. "Toonari" is a wonderfully spooky, spacy labyrinth. Tonally and harmonically, it has been influenced by Jon Hassell's "Fourth World" aesthetic, but its group improvisation is dynamic, owned by Ethics. A fine, unhurried bass solo introduces "Lykken," an art song by Eyvind Alnæs. Michel's articulation of the melody is pastoral and tender; Miyazaki's koto fills add poignancy while Garcia's cymbals whisper on the margins. There are moments on River Silver that don't really amount to much -- the aimlessly wandering tone poem that is the title track, or the equally unfocused closer "Snowed In" -- but they don't distract from the abundant pleasure found elsewhere. (To be fair, these tunes would likely fare better in a concert setting.) Michel Benita and Ethics have found found a unique voice on River Silver; it is beguiling, seductive, and resonant.
Thom Jurek

Michel Benita is the Algiers-born double-bassist who has been an influential recent collaborator with Andy Sheppard, but though River Silver has a Sheppard-like songlike warmth, it’s a more world-folkish venture. It features the zither-like Japanese koto, atmospheric electronics (from another Sheppard sideman, Norwegian guitarist Eivind Aarset), and the mellifluous sound of Swiss flugelhornist Matthieu Michel. A quiet snare tattoo, sturdy bass countermelody and airy flugel lines mix eloquently on the dreamily cruising Back from the Moon, while the brass sound on I See Altitudes suggests 80s Miles Davis of his Tutu/Amandla era with a sleepwalking momentum instead of funk; and Aarset’s guitar builds an intensifying rockish groove on the initially purring, koto-driven Off the Coast. Yeavening is a yearning ballad for Michel’s voicelike flugel; Mieko Miyazaki’s koto feature is a lyrical sway with Benita in close attendance; and Snowed In a spacily affecting finale. It has a tranquillisingly warm-bath feel at times, but the melodies are seductive, and very delicately unfolded.
John Fordham

This delicate record from bass player Michel Benita and his international quintet is an exquisite example of "less is more". Understated and intricately balanced, it is nevertheless full of ideas and emotion. The quieter it gets, the more it has to say. Quiet can be exciting.
This is perhaps seen clearest on the contribution of Philippe Garcia's percussion. His playing has a gentle quality, a very light touch that is sometimes barely audible. But every note counts; he doesn't need to be demonstrative to make his playing have an impact.
Featuring Mieko Miyazaki's koto - a harp-like instrument - and Eivind Aarset's guitar, there is a lot of texture in the music. The koto often takes the role of a rhythm guitar, allowing Aarset to add layers of structure beneath. The melodic content comes largely from the lyrical, soulful flugelhorn of Matthieu Michel - and from Benita himself.
The music crosses the borders of several genes - jazz, folk, and world musics. Yeavering, by Kathryn Tickell, is based on a Northumbriam folk tune; Lykken, which translates as "happiness", was written by Norwegian composer Eyvind Alnæs. Miyazaki contributes Hacihi Gatsu, an intricate duet between koto and bass.
Benita wrote the other six tunes, but is definitely an ensemble record. He takes a long solo in the introduction to Lykken, developing into a channel for Michel's ethereal flugelhorn.
The band create impressionistic soundscapes full of space. Evocative and fluid, the music flows gently on.
Patrick Hadfield

ECM Records has been an important part of my musical life for 40 years and counting. My love of this label goes back to early releases such as Keith Jarrett’s first solo record, Facing You (1973) and Eberhard Weber’s Colours of Chloe (1974). Other great early releases include pianist Richie Beirach’s Eon, Dave Liebman’s Drum Ode, and countless others.
Manfred Eicher, president and founder of ECM, is one of the most uncompromising record producers I’ve ever known. ECM’s elegant and understated packaging gives the impression that each CD is treated more like a work of art than just a CD recording. More importantly, the recorded sound is pristine and state-of-the-art. While many other labels are compressing their sound to fit mobile devices, ECM records still sound fantastic on even the most hi-resolution audio systems. As a shameless audiophile, I am very happy about that. The ECM sound is peerless.
And then the music: ECM’s artist roster includes big stars like Keith Jarrett, Arvo Pärt, and Chick Corea, standard classical repertoire by the great composers, as well as new jazz and cutting-edge contemporary classical music by emerging artists.
I want to gush over a fabulous new record called River Silver by Michel Benita and his group Ethics, one of three new releases from ECM (the others are from trumpeter Avishai Cohen and the Michael Formanek ensemble). I didn’t know about Michel Benita before hearing this new release. Benita was born in Algiers, Algeria, and is now based in Paris. His group Ethics is comprised of a koto player from Tokyo, a flugelhornist from Switzerland, a French drummer, a guitarist from Norway. The diverse background of the group’s members proves again that music is the glue that binds musicians together. The resulting alchemy created here is wonderfully original music, made up of many different musical traditions. It is deeply spiritual as well.
I rarely find myself listening to a new album over and over again, but this new recording is an exception. The musical textures and colors expressed by the mix of koto, flugelhorn, acoustic bass and sensitive application of electronics make for a unique and joyous sound. I also want to say that ECM records the acoustic bass like few other labels. It is sonic perfection.
My favorite tracks are “Back from the Moon”, “I See Altitudes”, “Off the Coast”, and ‘Yeavering”. I mention these cuts because they are available from iTunes, but in my opinion you should listen to these as teasers, then just get the CD. Believe me, it deserves a spot in your collection.
Tom Schnabel



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