Django Bates - The Study Of Touch (ECM)

Continuing his exploration of key releases by iconic jazz label frontrunners ECM, Norman Miller finds veteran pianist Django Bates in reflective mood

Released Nov 24th, 2017 via ECM Records / By Norman Miller
Django Bates - The Study Of Touch (ECM) The title of Django Bates latest outing on ECM is instructive, as this is indeed a study of masterful touch from the British ivory tinkler. Here he teams up again with double bassist Petter Eldh and drummer Peter Bruun, a trio originally formed to play the music of Charlie Parker – represented here by Passport, ironically one of the weaker of the 11 track set.

The album also shows a very different side to a pianist featured in his stunning contribution to Anouar Brahem's superb Blue Maqams album last year. Though as Bates also released a salute to The Beatles' Sgt Pepper's just before that, this is a man who clearly doesn't want to be pigeonholed.

Where his playing on Blue Maqams delved a blend of the darkly rhythmic and dreamily hypnotic, Bates opts here more for something akin to reflective classic jazz with twists. On the sweetly romantic Little Petherick, for example, Bates' slow tempo keeps the listener focused while dodging the perils of cloyingness. The follow-on track Senza Bitterness, meanwhile, rounds off its mid-tempo meditativeness with a sit-up-and-listen bassy flourish.

Some of the finest moments come as Bates flies through multiple shifts within tracks. The jittery tremblings that open the brilliantly titled We Are Not Lost, We Are Simply Finding Our Way lead into a series of dazzling variations of tempo and mood, while the avant swing of Slippage Street is a glorious collision of dissonance and bass-and-high note contrasts. Gorgeous swing and loose bass merge with staccato flourishes on the fabulous Giorgiantics.

But Bates is confident too just to go with a straight up delivery of fabulous jazz on tracks like the gravely contemplative opener Sadness All The Way Down and bass-driven meditation of the title track. Can't wait to hear what Django does next.