2019 Touchstone series release.
Mike Nock piano
Eddie Gomez bass
Jon Christensen drums
Recorded November 1981, Talent Studio, Oslo Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug Produced by Manfred Eicher
At the time of this recording, New Zealand's Mike Nock was one of the great, unsung pianists in European styled jazz. His elegant phrasing and wildly inventive melodicism fly in the face of all notions that claim improvisation must be outside Western musical parameters and structures. On Ondas, Nock has assembled a rhythm section that, while never having played together before shared the ability to create the bedrock, however flexible, for the artist's crystalline compositions and solos.
Eddie Gomez was a wise choice for this session because of his experience with Bill Evans, who is an obvious influence on Nock's own composing -- as is Keith Jarrett. His pizzicato flourishes and shifting timbres on "Forgotten Love" and "Visionary," while retaining an elemental sense of meter, are remarkable. Christensen is the greatest of all the drummers in the ECM stable. His style is one of paucity and sparse riffs, but his cymbal "dancing" is a trademark favorite of pianists and saxophonists everywhere. He has the ability to open up time, creating a window for improvisers to stretch each note, each interval, each mode, for all it's worth, suspending notions of time and space for the listener. Evidence is on the title track and "Land of the Long White Clouds."
For his part, Nock is a magician of lyrical invention. His compositional architecture is created of minor modes and subtle textures. His chords are small enough to be their own rhythm section and large enough to fit all the notes in between them and the next octave in combinatory gestures of shimmering beauty. He does all of this in a manner in which tension and its resolution are in constant flux, never out of balance with one another. His solo on "Forgotten Love," that is based upon Gomez', is a case in point: towering ivy clusters of notes flex over darkened minor chords, up and through the middle and then upper registers of the instrument before inviting Gomez back in.
In all, this is a glorious recording by a crack batch of musicians. It is also a stellar example of what Manfred Eicher's label and production offer to the world.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek
How can one not marvel at Mike Nock’s Ondas? Drawing as much from Keith Jarrett as Bill Evans, and in the enviable company of Eddie Gomez and Jon Christensen no less, the sadly overlooked New Zealander left us with one of ECM’s most enduring documents at a time when the label was really getting its bearings. Nock’s pianism gives the illusion of distance, even when up close and personal, as if it were some long shadow, the feet of which are obscured by the horizon. It is also a magnifying glass of vast insight.
Central to this circumscribed detail is the 16-minute opener, “Forgotten Love.” Before a lacy ostinato it unfolds a sheet of paper as landscape, sketching fleeting affections and unrequited maybes. This sets Gomez up for a moth-like solo, as earthbound as it is winged, which then blends into the piano’s left hand. The right, meanwhile, stumbles off and returns with recollections of its travels, each framed by the thinnest of photographic borders. Christensen’s characteristic cymbals patter like rainfall across the title track and on through “Visionary,” in which he also foregrounds a touch-and-go snare. Yet against such a sweeping backdrop, these gestures forget their search for a groove and look more ponderously at where their feet are already planted. Plaintiveness thrives in “Land Of The Long White Cloud” and reveals the set’s most cinematic moments.
Nock’s turns of phrase gnarl into a lichen-covered network of roots through which an insectile bass crawls, leaving a melodic honey trail for us to follow in its wake. With such a solemn road behind us, we open ecstatic “Doors” to our final destination. While Nock may not carry the weight of some of ECM’s more widely recorded movers and shakers, one can hardly begin to quantify the wealth of impressions he leaves behind.
This is not music to get lost in, but music that gets lost in you. Another essential date from the 80s.
Tyran Grillo ECMReviews.com
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