You should take this album’s title as serious advice. Even though the world, as depicted on the cover, is represented by a couple staring unbelievingly into the abyss of evil, apparently going to the underworld, the message is ‘don’t let joy be taken from you.’ Despite facing doomsday, the spirit shouldn’t be allowed to be corrupted. This is how the album’s mantra reads. Every track has its basis in happiness and optimism, and the consolation of providing a final philosophy of life. Woe to him whose life is drawn from the current state of our world. In this case, four musicians on this album distract us from any gloomy or apocalyptic mood for sixty-six minutes with a very entertaining presentation of jazz. And despite all the adversities, who or what should discourage us from embracing an album that exudes optimism, and running it on and endless loop until the danger has passed or there is nothing more to hear. And ‘Joy in Spite of Everything’ is one of the most ingenious ECM albums to date, which is saying something when you consider the great ECM productions in the last few months. The fact that the recording technology turns out to be top tier is a credit to the know-how of the traditional jazz label itself. And Manfred Eichner once again demonstrates his knack for inviting the right musicians at precisely the right moment to the recording studio, where in this case the mastermind, Stefano Bollani literally overflows with ideas for sound. This shouldn’t be surprising. It all adds up to a production that’s not only for the jazz fan, but something that can be sincerely recommended to the curious newcomers to this musical genre – as something to stifle gloom and to nip it in the bud for whatever reason it may arise in everyday life. Stefano Bollani has worked successfully with bassist Jesper Bodilsen and drummer Morten Lund, both Danes, for many years. The established trio expanded into a quintet for ‘Joy in Spite of Everything’ with the addition of guitarist Bill Frisell and tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, who transitions Bollani’s Scheherazadeworthy narrative piano style to his instrument. Although these five professionals (at least currently) were put together purely for the studio, they are always listening to each other as equals among equals; they play together in such a relaxed and precise manner you’re tempted to assume spiritual kinship. They carefully listen as each other plays an instrument or to each other when there’s an overlay of instrumentation, regardless of whether they’re creating classical music from the score or improvising jazz—a pre-requisite for the blending of individual elements into a common statement. If, as in this case, it occurs lovingly and with sensitivity, and if each holds back his individuality, and doesn’t dominate the common emergence, magnificence arises – splendid playing to counter the personally small or the allencompassing downfall of the world. We listened to this 88.2 kHz 24-bit FLAC download in an acoustically optimized listening room, through Revel Gem2/B15a loudspeakers, driven by a custom-made PWM digital amplifier; with its SPDIF input connected directly to a dedicated audio computer for the downloaded data.
Sampling rate 88.2 kHz: verified
Bit depth 24 bit: okay
The available technical spectrum is fully utilized.