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Friday, December 16, 2005

GARY PEACOCK December Poems

ECM -1-1119 (1979)

ECM is one of those record labels that is pretty much immediately identifiable by both the sound and design of its releases. Say "ECM" to a jazz fan and they will probably start thinking of spare instrumentation, thoughtful playing, reflective improvising, and, above all, an icy, wintry, yet warm sound. Their album design has tended to follow the lead of the music; simple, stark imagery with plain block typography.

You can't get more wintry than by titling an album December Poems, and bassist Gary Peacock does deliver a record that captures the feel of a snowy day when winter is still new. Peacock is an extraordinarily gifted and versatile player who has proven himself to be equally at home with the avant-jazz of Albert Ayler and Marilyn Crispell as with the more straightahead music of Art Pepper and Bill Evans. He is currently most active in and best known for his work with Keith Jarrett's Standards Trio (which first worked together on the Peacock-led Tales of Another for ECM).

Peacock goes it alone for most of December Poems; the only other musician on the album is saxophonist Jan Garbarek, who plays on two tracks. "Snow Dance" features Peacock duetting with himself, overdubbing a high register solo over a lilting modal rhythm. "December Greenwings" is a freewheeling duet with Garbarek, who solos with the gravity of Coltrane combined with the freeflight of Ornette over a walking bassline. Peacock coaxes all sorts of unearthly noises from his instrument on the abstract, otherwordly "Flower Crystals". And "A Northern Tale" sounds like a long-lost folksong and really does seem to tell a story without words.

Bassists and non-bassists alike will find something to like about December Poems; it showcases the simple virtuosity of Gary Peacock to great effect and is the perfect album to put on during those (upcoming) cold winter nights.


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