From the first dozen of albums released in 2016,there is one stand alone release. US drummer Ches Smith,better known as Xiu Xiu and Mr.Bungle member (or John Zorn collaborator, depending on one's background), in the very first days of 2016 released his debut on German ECM label. It is not his first album as leader, he already has released series of solo drums albums in US and few more - with collaborators in Europe (on Portuguese Clean Feed and Polish For Tune labels), but his appearance on ECM is still quite surprising.
Respected chamber jazz (and sterile European ambient/world fusion in a past) label doesn't look like proper home for ex-Mr.Bungle guy. Still things are changing though.
On "The Bell" Smith leads acoustic trio with pianist Craig Taborn and violist Mat Maneri, both are far not a newbies for the label. Besides of playing drums,vibraphone and bells Ches Smith are composer of all album's material (part of it is obviously improvised, but generally the line between composed and improvised is extremely thin on this album).
So, surprisingly for Ches Smith but expect-ably for ECM release,music on "The Bell" is kind of chamber jazz,spiced with improvisational elements, but strongly influenced by modern classical composition. Both pianist and violist feel very comfortable with slow,often dark and calm atmosphere and, more surprisingly, Smith himself finds right place in this quite unusual for him environment.
First half (bigger) of "The Bell" represents similar by its tempo and atmosphere dark chamber jazz, the last third (starting from Wacken Open Air) is faster,sharper and moves towards contemporary jazz avant-garde.
A bit risky release,since its target is hardly Mr.Bungle fans nor ECM chamber safer chamber jazz lovers, it opens new interesting page in Ches Smith musical biography. "The Bell" contains interesting music,but it is even more curios what can come next from same or similar concept Ches Smith' projects.