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

Personnel

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)

ˈalɡərɪð(ə)m/

noun

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.'