‘Seriously deep’ Eberhard Weber/Colours (Silent Feet, ECM, 1978)


Eberhard Weber – bassCharlie Mariano – soprano saxophonefluteRainer Brüninghaus –pianosynthesizerJohn Marshall – drums

It’s interesting to think about that line between the overly sentimental and lacking in heart, the formulaic and manufactured (the kind of over-produced sounds you hear on the radio as if pre-digested) and other kinds of music that mine a similar territory of accessible, not too difficult music, but escape such criticism.

Perhaps it’s always about context and reception, alongside something about the musician/composer that allows this reprieve. This piece of music, chosen for me by YouTube (by the anonymous seer at YouTube, or ‘algorithms’ - according to one person commenting on this phenomenon of modern-day tech-mysticism)



plural noun: algorithms

1.    a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.

could tick all the boxes for the kind of jazz I like least, but escapes such categorisation because of the skill of the musicians, is that what it is? Or the way it sounds, the beautiful production sound maybe; or the way it makes me think of other favourite musicians from the era, albeit a much quieter version thereof. Or the way the elements are perfectly balanced and the way it returns to the centre; yes, it could be this (but I always say this about music I like). Maybe it's the track title, who knows about such things?

Even if arguably this kind of jazz, the borderline background music you hear being played in a chain hotel bar (all muted and tasteful tones, very 80s lighting) has ushered in a kind of undeniable stasis in the genre and smothered much of the wild individuality and freedom that stamps earlier periods, I like this music. 

According to the very short, dismissive ‘review’ by on Allmusic: 

'In the late '70s and '80s, bassist Eberhard Weber's music epitomized the ECM sound. Emphasizing long tones, contrasting sound with silence (... edit) Weber performs three stretched-out originals including the 17½-minute "Seriously Deep." This music moves slowly and requires a lot of patience by the listener.'

But listen to ex-Soft Machine drummer, John Marshall from 9’20” and the so-natural, but highly complex interaction with Weber, which is so beautiful to hear, as is the contained aggression, for want of a better description, that is conveyed in this music at this point.

And then around 11’30” something remarkable happens; the piece offers up an interlude, a kind of space and introspection. I love this, this section where the instruments communicate with each other: the insistent piano line asking the others to listen (and the other instruments responding with a controlled groove, taunting almost with the rolling drumming so flashy, while remaining under-stated if that’s possible).

This is taken from John Kelman’s interesting look at Weber’s significance, his collaborators and innovations on All About Jazz

As the jazz-rock fusion movement gained ground from its early years in the late 1960s through its glory days in the early-to-mid-1970s—blending the more sophisticated harmonies of jazz with rock music’s rhythmic power and high volume—all too often it was about muscular chops and complex writing for the sake of it. Little attention was paid to nuance and understatement. While guitarist John McLaughlin’s high octane Mahavishnu Orchestra and keyboard player Chick Corea’s guitar-centric incarnation of Return to Forever were tearing up the charts around the word, in Europe a different approach was taking place—something that didn’t fit into the broader definition of fusion but, nevertheless, took advantage of the broader sonic textures afforded by technological innovation. 

Here is his assessment of the Weber record Silent Feet, which starts with an appreciation of the wonderful contribution/foundations provided by the drummer, John Marshall (something that immediately struck me as well):

What Marshall brings to Silent Feet, almost from the start of the opening “Seriously Deep,” is more overt virtuosity, a more direct kind of energy and a considerable change in texture. As opposed to Christensen’s dark, splashy cymbal work, Marshall’s was more delicate; but once the 18-minute track makes its way into Mariano’s first solo of the set, Marshall’s more unbridled power becomes inherently clear (...)

As a soloist, Weber had evolved considerably; while in later years he would turn to greater scripting, here he was on the ascent in his improvisational prowess, a lithe player combining dexterity and lyrical intent with visceral glissandi to make him, to this day, one of the instrument’s great soloists, and one whose electro-bass permitted him a facility not available to the more unwieldy double-bass. He solos for four glorious minutes before turning things over to Mariano who, on soprano, again asserts his position as a player who, recently deceased, was well-known but absolutely not reaching the larger audience he deserved.

Check out this interesting interview with Weber by Kelman, entitled ‘Positive Pragmatism, again from All About Jazz

The best, or most perceptive review of this work comes from the ECM site, by Tyran Grillo,  apparently there are repeated references to the novel Watership Down (“Silent Feet” and “Eyes That Can See In The Dark” both refer to a central creation myth among the story’s protagonists, a herd of rabbits fleeing in exodus from the warren they once called home’ to be found in this music) on the record that also assesses Weber's work with his group, Colours:

“Seriously Deep” throws a light blanket of tender drones and electric piano, quilted with gorgeous solos on soprano sax and bass. Steady rhythms (hereon provided by ex-Soft Machine drummer John Marshall) turn something otherwise mournful into life-affirming joy. The title is not a pretentious statement of the music’s emotional cache, but rather a description of its physical path as it digs toward the center of the earth. The second, and title, track of the album’s modest three is an ironic one, requiring active hands to evoke silent feet. The helix that is Weber and Brüninghaus spirals in place as cymbals connect like base pairs within, thus leading to one of the latter’s most captivating pianistic passages. It is the kind of balanced exuberance that characterizes Pat Metheny at his most potent stretches of imagination. Stellar breath control from Mariano plays beautifully off Weber’s every move, making for one of the finest cuts in the collection.'   

Schaum, Masayoshi Fujita & Jan Jelinek (Faitiche, 2016)

Heat that has a liquid quality, building forever in its intensity – to engage with, to recreate the Tropics. German producer, Jan Jelinek has said of this album:

'I have long been obsessed with the Tropics. This obsession involves a mental image of a specific quality of landscape: deliriously extravagant unstructuredness, hostile to life but also excessively productive. I am fascinated by the idea of installing clear minimalist forms amid such luxuriant tropical growth. Perhaps my image of the city of Brasilia is a good example: the utopia of elegant and ascetic modernism, surrounded by rampant vegetation.'

Jelinek continues that the idea of the

'Tropics is fascinating as a nervous jungle phantasm that openly indulges in exoticism at the same time as deconstructing it. In this way, the main character’s adventure becomes a journey into the subjective. It resembles a feverish inner delirium, exposing exoticism as a simulated, utopian perspective. What it boils down to is insubstantial, nothing but foam and froth.'     

The record title, Schaum means ‘foam and froth’ in German.

This is the second release from Masayoshi Fujita & Jan Jelinek, following Bird, Lake, Objects, Faitiche, 2010. Again, from the promotional material: 'Japanese vibraphonist Masayoshi Fujita prepares his instrument with various percussion elements as well as metal objects and toys, while Jan Jelinek layers loops made using small-scale electronic devices.'

What is particularly fascinating about this music is the way it allows for enormous warmth to come through; you can almost feel the heat, the damp and the sense of being enclosed by the clotted, putrid vegetation. This heat helps elide what could have made this idea ‘corny’ and overly manufactured, this notion of recreating an exotic environment. This music retains a physical, felt quality rather than simply becoming a purely abstract exercise.

I love all of this record, from start to finish, but the track ‘Botuto’ is particularly impressive in the way the sinister aspect is never over-played, it remains delicate and moving. I also appreciate the way the jazz references are there, but again allowed to merge with the contemporary aspect. It's modern and old. Schaum is a very distinctive and powerful release that retains a core intimacy to it as it explores the sensual world.      

Check out this Resident Advisor interview, ‘Sampling matters’ that unpacks the ‘sprawling career of Jan Jelinek, the highly adventurous German artist who's about to reissue Loop-finding-jazz-records, one of the best electronic music records of all-time.’


The German musician patches together a mix inspired by his summer in LA, put up last year.

'Represent Heart' Farhot (Kabul Fire, vol. 1, Jakarta Records, 2013)

Such a sweet, sexy simplicity to this song by Farhot – producer of Talib Kweli, the Nigerian artist Nneka (more on her soon) and Selah Sue – who, according to the Paris radio station, Nova is based between Hamburg and Kabul, in his native Afghanistan.

Some time back, when listening to a song that shall remain nameless and liking it, I remember a friend dismissing the music by saying: ‘But it’s only two notes being repeated.’ I couldn’t argue with that, but it was missing the point the virtue and interest of the music lay in the fact that it was pared back, so foundational.

Something doesn't have to be complex and overly designed to have an impact; indeed, if you return to the beginnings it was all about the exposure of the elements, the hiss and the groove of the parts being seen as they were, untreated (and authentic).  

Much the same could be said for this music, even if its sensibility is as much pop as hip-hop. It’s the alchemy of that bassline groove and that sibilant beat that works (I’m not so taken by the sample from the film, ‘The Usual Suspects’ that strikes me as a bit too directive, too explicit - that desire for a wow, that's dope! reaction, but that’s not such a big deal). The energy in this music is strong. It works.

I first heard it, like many other pieces of music on Radio Nova: a station that is like a friend for me here, pleasing me and frustrating me - sometimes - in equal measure though more of the former in its joyous mix of (almost) all genres and eras. It's self-description is: 'Electronic, Eclectic.' This radio station is a wonderful thing, brimming with enthusiasm for music and supporting newer/independent artists from France and elsewhere. The soundtrack - or chosen song - for today on the station is Minor Threat’s ‘Straight Edge’ – funny.

‘Represent Heart’ featured on Farhot’s release, ‘Kabul Fire. Vol. 1’ it's described like this in the info notes:

Kabul Fire” is his first release under his own name, a mostly instrumental dedication to his and his families hometown Kabul. The project is not just another Madlib/Dilla/Premier copy, it has it’s own musical language and astehtik with influences ranging from Hip Hop too classic Afghan music and Reggae. Guest vocals are being committed by Ms.Dynamite, Talib Kweli and Kano & Giggs.  

Check out the entire record by Farhot here …. 

Nico 'I'll keep it with mine' (Chelsea Girl, 1967)

Coco Chanel famously said once, ‘Elegance is refusal’ – a comment that reflected her belief that to be truly elegant you needed to remove an item, a piece of jewellery, perhaps, before going out in public. But this notion also reflects something of the Parisian psychic milieu Chanel came to represent where notions of control and self-control are enacted daily, and come to filter your consciousness of what is valuable and important. To be elegant is to be under-stated; to refuse (excess).

I always think of this comment when listening to Nico’ s cover of the Bob Dylan song, ‘I’ll keep it with mine’ – but this quality of refusal is, I’d suggest, something that more broadly defines her as a performer and artist. It’s impossible to under-estimate the pressure the former model and Fellini film-star, Nico would have been under to use her beauty to promote her art, to make herself accessible and how this pressure might have flowed on to the creation of her music.

But if you watch films of Nico from the 60s, she is nonchalant and absent, almost. She is not playing the game, perhaps she doesn’t even notice that ‘the game’ is there.

There is always something challenging about Nico’s music, some thought behind it. Such intellectual foundations can make her music 'difficult' and rarely easy listening, but her music always, always carries the imprint of her character: it’s unmistakably her. I admire Nico’s insistence that we hear her music, as she wanted it, on her terms. The irony, of course, is that during post production for Chelsea Girl the excessive and corny string and flute overdubs were added by the album producer and arranger, without her consultation or agreement.

In 1981, as Nico said in relation to the album:

I still cannot listen to it, because everything I wanted for that record, they took it away. I asked for drums, they said no. I asked for more guitars, they said no. And I asked for simplicity, and they covered it in flutes! [...] They added strings and – I didn’t like them, but I could live with them. But the flute! The first time I heard the album, I cried and it was all because of the flute.

My description above makes Nico seem rather fierce – words I would prefer to use regarding her are austere, or serious – but what transforms this song is an unexpected softness that comes through, alongside a naïve simplicity. Such qualities are not often associated with Nico, or her oeuvre (understatement alert).

You will search, babe, at any cost,
But how long, babe, can you search for what’s not lost ?
Everybody will help you,
Some people are very kind.
But if I can save you any time,
Come on, give it to me,
I’ll keep it with mine.

I can’t help it if you might think I am odd
If I say I’m not loving you for what you are
But for what you’re not.
Everybody will help you,
Discover what you set out to find
But if I can save you any time,
Come on, give it to me,
I’ll keep it with mine.

The train leaves at half past ten
But it’ll be back tomorrow same time again.
The conductor, he’s weary,
Still stuck on the line.
But if I can save you any time,
Come on, give it to me,
I’ll keep it with mine.

This naivete comes partly from the lyrics especially the verse that has the children’s nursery rhyme aspect: ‘The train leaves at half past ten/But it'll be back tomorrow same time again.
The conductor, he's weary,/Still stuck on the line.’

I have no idea what that means, or why it was included as it has no apparent connection with the rest of the song, but I like it. Similarly, I have spent a long time thinking about the lines ...

‘If I say I'm not loving you for what you are
But for what you're not.'

trying to understand what it means; to love someone for what they are not? How would that work, in practice? Would it mean loving something that only ever exists in the abstract, as an abstraction, in that it is not linked to the person who exists?

The surprising feeling, I mentioned comes through the way Nico sings this song, the way she softens certain words, most notably I, as in ‘but if I can save you any time’ and later at around 1’52, when she sings the same line it’s the same effect, she really sounds sincere here. This feeling also comes through in the eccentric phrasing at the end of the lines where it becomes all loose (will help yo-ou; some people are ve-ery ki-ind etc).

I also love the way Nico sings one of the greatest lines in any 60s song ever: ‘I can't help it if you might think I am odd’. She sings it in such a serious way it always makes me smile. She is so resolutely not wanting us to think she is trying to win us over here, but this refusal makes her seem even more charming.   

Overall the effect is that Nico is stating the song, not singing it. She is not trying to convince us, or the subject of her attentions and this kind of non-performance is what I like about it most. Unlike Janis Joplin entreating and beseeching, or French stars, such as Françoise Hardy playing the coquette, with their soft-lilting little-girl voices and demeanour, Nico’s presence is her true gift. She says simply: here I am, this is me. For me this is true.  

Not everyone has the same point of view, of course, there are lots of negative comments about Nico under her videos, most of them making churlish comments about her voice, being out of tune or whatever it might be. But again, if we accept her as an artist with all her talents and limitations, such comments are a bit off-mark, as it is the imperfection that makes her seem authentic. All of this reminds me of the Japanese appreciation of ceramics that were broken, or somehow damaged:

Kintsugi (金継ぎ?, きんつぎ, "golden joinery"), also known as Kintsukuroi (金繕い?, きんつくろい, "golden repair"), is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered goldsilver, or platinum, a method similar to the maki-e technique. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.

Kintsugi can relate to the Japanese philosophy of "no mind" (無心 mushin?), which encompasses the concepts of non-attachment, acceptance of change and fate as aspects of human life.

Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated... a kind of physical expssion of the spirit of mushin....Mushin is often literally translated as “no mind,” but carries connotations of fully existing within the moment, of non-attachment, of equanimity amid changing conditions. ...The vicissitudes of existence over time, to which all humans are susceptible, could not be clearer than in the breaks, the knocks, and the shattering to which ceramic ware too is subject. This poignancy or aesthetic of existence has been known in Japan as mono no aware, a compassionate sensitivity, or perhaps identification with, [things] outside oneself.

— Christy Bartlett, Flickwerk: The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics



(This song always makes me think of an Australian song by Paul Kelly ‘You can put your shoes under my bed’ which while not of the same ilk, I mean it is much simpler - it is a rather basic pop-song in many respects - has a similar feel about it for me. Perhaps this association comes through the delivery or the short sentences, I’m not sure. Yes, I know the sound of this song is a bit ‘dated’ and the saxophone is a bit, well … not my kind of thing, but still, it is moving. Now being so far away from Australia and for so long, I often find myself listening to music like this; music that is far from impressive in terms of my reputation as someone with the hardcore/discerning tastes of someone who writes about music, let’s say.

But the direct simplicity of this music offers me comfort. This music reminds me of houses dark, with no light in the middle of a summer’s day; wooden floorboards shining almost in the half-light, and me lying there as a small child feeling the cool against my bare legs, always so amazed at the impression of endlessness and space all around me, waiting for my name to be called, so that I might rejoin the others).