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HOMMAGE À EBERHARD WEBER / ECM 2463                                                 player
with Pat Metheny, Jan Garbarek, Gary Burton, Scott Colley, Danny Gottlieb, Paul McCandless and the SWR Big Band 

Drawn from jubilee concerts at Stuttgart’s Theaterhaus to mark Eberhard Weber’s 75th birthday, Hommage is a remarkable live album incorporating big band arrangements of Weber compositions as well as striking new music from old friends Pat Metheny and Jan Garbarek. 

The programme is opened by Jan Garbarek, Weber’s associate of many years, with characteristically powerful and inventive soprano sax improvisations over loops of Weber’s bass. Eberhard played with the Jan Garbarek Group for a quarter-century, from 1982 to 2007, and the essential compatibility of the sounds of the Norwegian saxophonist and the German bassist is evident once again in these “Résumé Variations”.

The centerpiece of the album – and the title track here – is a specially commissioned work by Pat Metheny, with whom Weber had played and recorded back in the 1970s (on ECM albums including Pat’s own Watercolors as well as Gary Burton’s Ring and Passengers). Featuring the SWR Big Band conducted by Helge Sunde, Gary Burton, Scott Colley and Danny Gottlieb, this extended composition is built upon recordings of solo improvisations by Weber, subtly orchestrated by Metheny. Pat explains his methodology in his liner notes: “Since Eberhard’s stroke in 2007, he has not been able to play. But I felt that his sonic identity was such a huge component in his work that I wanted to somehow acknowledge it in whatever form I could. It came to me that it would be interesting to take the idea of sampling one step further; to find video elements of Eberhard improvising and then reorganize, chop, mix and orchestrate elements of those performances together into a new composition with a large projection of the Eberhard moments that I chose filling a screen behind us as we performed. It seemed like a new way to compose for me that would almost take the form of visual sampling.”

This ambitious undertaking captivated the Stuttgart audience and generated rave reviews from international media. Sebastian Scotney of UK daily The Telegraph noted: “The writing for big band had character, depth and a strong narrative, with adventurous and quite magical part-writing such as four low flutes and the trombones playing pedal notes over an arpeggiating vibraphone. The ending was particularly touching. Metheny had given Weber's recorded bass the lead voice while his own fingers, sliding up and down the guitar strings, produced ghostly, ethereal sounds.” Metheny’s “Hommage” is a piece that roves through a range of moods with strong soloing from the composer and from Gary Burton, as well as dynamic ‘interaction’ between Eberhard (on tape) and live bass player Scott Colley. 

Gary Burton on vibes and Ernst Hutter from the SWR Big Band on euphonium are the soloists on an elegant rendering of “Touch”, a composition from Weber’s Yellow Fields recording, arranged for the Stuttgart event by Ralf Schmid, while both “Maurizius” from Later That Evening (in an arrangement by Michael Gibbs) and “Tübingen” from Resumé (arranged by Rainer Tempel) feature Burton and Oregon’s Paul McCandless as soloists. The concerts concluded – as this album does – with the aptly-titled “Notes After An Evening”, a Weber original from his 1993 solo-recording Pendulum, now performed by the SWR Big Band with Gary Burton, Paul McCandless and alto saxophonist Klaus Graf.

(The digital-download version of Hommage à Eberhard Weber adds a bonus bonus track, “Street Scenes”, performed in Stuttgart in an arrangement by Libor Sima, and with solos by Burton and McCandless).

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Eberhard Weber was born in Stuttgart in 1940. He made his first ECM appearance in 1970, as bassist with Wolfgang Dauner’s trio on Output. His first leader date, The Colours of Chloë, was an immediate critical and popular success, winning the Großer Deutscher Schallplattenpreis in 1975. Through the 1970s Weber played with many other ECM musicians. He was a member of Ralph Towner’s Solstice group with Jan Garbarek and Jon Christensen. He recorded with Pat Metheny on Watercolours, and with Gary Burton on Ring and Passengers, also touring internationally with Burton. After leading his own band ‘Colours’, with Charlie Mariano, Rainer Brüninghaus and John Marshall, he joined the Jan Garbarek Group in 1982 and over the next quarter-century helped to define its sound. In 2009 the German Jazz Musicians Union awarded him the Albert Mangelsdorff Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Jazz, and ECM issued a triple album box set of the Colours records in its Old & New Masters series. The albums Resumé (released in 2012) and Encore (2015) were based on live recordings of the unique bass solos Eberhard Weber played in performances with the Jan Garbarek Group between 1990 and 2007, which Weber had edited, rearranged and modified with additional keyboard parts played by himself and contributions by Jan Garbarek, Michael DiPasqua (both on Resumé) and Ack van Rooyen (on Encore). 

In January 2015, Eberhard Weber received the Jazzpreis Baden-Württemberg, a lifetime achievement award presented to him at the Stuttgart event by Jürgen Walter, Baden-Württemberg’s State Secretary for Science, Research and Art. Weber’s autobiography Résumé: Eine deutsche Jazz-Geschichte was recently published by Sagas Edition. 

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The SWR Big Band was founded in 1951 by Erwin Lehn as the Südfunk Dance Orchestra. Lehn led the orchestra until 1992, since then it has continued with changing conductors. In 1998 it was renamed the SWR (Südwestrundfunk) Big Band. The orchestra has frequently collaborated with US arrangers and soloists including Sammy Nestico, Don Menza, Frank Foster, Rob McConnell, Bill Holman, Clark Terry, Slide Hampton, Bob Florence, Phil Woods and Bob Mintzer, and has received four Grammy nominations.

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