…The four musicians take delight in each other’s playing.

ECM 2736 / 389 9024

Benjamin Lackner (piano); Mathias Eick (trumpet); Jérôme Regard (double bass); Manu Katché (drums)

Recorded September 2021

With a string of trio albums under his belt for other labels, pianist Benjamin Lackner looks for fresh new sounds and concepts for his music, and finds them in abundance on his ECM debut, Last Decade.

Expanding his usual trio to a quartet may not seem such a huge step, but as Lackner points out it has forced him to focus on the trumpet as the lead voice and he has had to rethink his own role as accompanist. To this end, the pianist has composed eight new pieces that meet the new challenge not just head on, but with spectacular results.

For a new band there is a new concept and sound. Lackner embraces this and has created a focussed yet spacious quartet sound that floats with an easy grace and lyricism that is greatly appealing. In addition, the group also love a good groove, and these too can be heard and felt as the four musicians take delight in each other’s playing.

The spacious and delicate side of the quartet can be heard on the opening ‘Where Do We Go From Here’ with Katché’s exemplary cymbal playing immediately catching the attention and furthered on the reflective and contemplative title track.

‘Hung Up On That Ghost’ is an extraordinary piece of music from the opening bass and piano introduction before Regard start to lay down a bassline that is quickly picked up by Manu Katché’s powerful brushwork that creates the groove for the piece. There is delicious feeling of eeriness that comes from Mathias who adds his voice as well as trumpet to the performance.

The rhythmic potence of bassist Regard and Katché, with the strong driving patterns created by the drummer form an integral part of the music, and this is demonstrated with incredible flexibility and control on ‘Circular Confidence’ and the pair lock together in fine style on ‘Open Minds Lost’ which also features some wonderfully powerful and expressive open horn from Eick.

This is another fine leader debut from an artist who clearly has much to offer in terms of his sensitive and distinctive piano playing and strong compositions.

Reviewed by Nick Lea