|Swiss drummer-composer Pierre Favre has been bringing new impulses to European jazz since the 1960s. At home with all of the music’s styles, from New Orleans to bop to free playing, he is in every context a uniquely lyrical, melodically-minded drummer. The range of ECM musicians with whom Favre has played gives an index of his open-mindedness: from Dino Saluzzi to Arvo Pärt to John Surman and Barre Phillips. His leader dates for the label have included discs with Kenny Wheeler and Steve Swallow (“Window Steps”, 1995) with singer Tamia (“De la nuit... le jour”, 1987, “Solitudes”, 1991) with fellow percussionists Paul Motian, Fredy Studer and Nana Vasconcelos (1984).
“Fleuve” introduces his new ensemble, a group of most unorthodox line-up. With tuba, double-bass and bass guitar, the music does not lack authority at the bottom end when needed, but it is also highly mobile and agile, and is given plenty of room to move inside Manfred Eicher’s spacious production. Its music is elegant, sinuous, poetic, its timbres and textures surprisingly evocative of renaissance music, its lyricism timeless. In Favre’s pieces, the differentiated dynamics, arrangements and melody are influenced and developed primarily from the sound colours of his solo percussion playing. Sometimes drums, harp, bass and guitar function as a core ‘rhythm group’ inside which musical ideas are perpetually interchanged, with tuba/serpent and reeds as frontline voices. Just as often, however, the contributions of all seven musicians overlap contrapuntally, a procedure that has its roots in traditional jazz, utilised to decidedly non-traditional effect.