After three albums with John Abercrombie--Open Land, Cat 'n' Mouse, and Class Trip--and the trio recording Abaton with Sylvie Courvoisier and Erik Friedlander, this is the first ECM leader date for violinist Mark Feldman.
Feldman is established now as one of jazz's finest string players, but What Exit frequently leaves 'jazz' behind, as his pieces--there are eight originals here - establish climates more frequently associated with contemporary composition. At the same time, interaction is paramount in this music and solo skills as crucial as ensemble awareness. Five years ago in an interview with the Boston Globe's Bob Blumenthal, Feldman spoke of his goal as integration, without it being a frivolous 'crossover' thing--the real organic integration of classical and modern jazz. What Exit takes large steps toward the realisation of this ambition, which is itself the logical outcome of Feldman's idiosyncratic journey through the genres over the last thirty years.
He is joined on What Exit, recorded at New York's Avatar Studio last year, by a special group of players assembled for the project--England's John Taylor on piano, the Swedish bassist Anders Jormin and drummer Tom Rainey, California-born but, like Feldman himself, long established as a central figure in New York's improvising circles. (Rainey makes his ECM debut on What Exit.) Feldman's pieces maximise the improvising potential of each of the players, and it is immediately apparent that Rainey and Jormin are a provocative and mutually-inspiring rhythm team, providing enormous propulsion for the opening Arcade, a 23-minute piece of ever-changing mood. Feldman's solos alone reference inspirations from raga to Bach's Chaconne to free play.