Benjamin Lackner: Last Decade

ECM debut for German-American pianist is in the classic ECM mould - patient, floating, probing, poignant and ascensional


Given the breadth and depth of ECM’s activities over the years, I’m reluctant to speak of Last Decade – German-American pianist Lackner’s debut for the label – as a “classic” ECM issue.

Yet this would seem a fair description of this suite of original music from a pianist blessed with both a beautiful touch and a refined awareness of the value of group interplay. Everything here is rendered with exquisite unforced interaction and captured with the sonic clarity or transparency of sound which has long characterised ECM.

Lackner (born 1976) studied privately with Brad Mehldau at the latter end of the 1990s, has performed at major jazz festivals and worked with, e.g., Marc Ribot, Pheeroan akLaff and the late Billy Higgins. Talking of Higgins, another remarkable drummer features here: Manu Katché exhibits a shared understanding of time, space and dynamics with Lackner.

Bassist Jérôme Regard – the pianist’s longtime associate in a trio which has released several well-received albums – and trumpeter Mathias Eick complete the group. The Norwegian hornman infuses Lackner’s patient, unfolding melodies with the floating and probing quality of his breathy, often poignant tone and lucid line: sample the title track and Open Minds Lost. 

All the music is by Lackner save for Emile, a measured, deep-toned pizzicato improvisation of two minutes or so from Regard, evincing telling intonation and a judicious use of harmonics. Things get a touch funky in My People and (especially) Hung Up On That Ghost, with its captivating brushes-turned shuffle figures from Katché, spacious and superbly phrased bass from Regard and moments of ringing ascensional affirmation from Eick.

But the overall ethos here is one of reflective calm – hear Remember This – realised through a remarkable interplay of melodic clarity, harmonic colour and rhythmic maturity, epitomised by the aptly titled Circular Confidence. As I said, a “classic” ECM release.

(1) Where Do We Go From Here; Circular Confidence; Camino Cielo; Hung Up On That Ghost; Last Decade; Remember This; Open Minds Lost; (2) Emile; (1) My People (41.39)
(1) Lackner (p); Mathias Eick (t); Jérôme Regard (b); Manu Katché (d). (2) as (1) but Lackner, Eick, Katché out. Pernes-les-Fontaines, September 2021.
ECM 389 9024