Andy Sheppard tenor and soprano saxophones
Eivind Aarset guitar
Michel Benita double bass
Sebastian Rochford drums
Surrounded by Sea was recorded in August and September 2014 in the responsive natural acoustics of Lugano’s Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI.
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Surrounded by Sea, Andy Sheppard’s third ECM album, is a strongly atmospheric recording, and one whose associative title seems especially apt. The album adds Norwegian guitarist Eivind Aarset to the line-up of Sheppard’s widely acclaimed Trio Libero with Michel Benita (bass) and Sebastian Rochford (Drums).
The elegantly poised textures of Andy Sheppard’s new quartet – given a haunting, other-worldly presence by the electronic soundscapes of guitarist Eivind Aarset – mark a striking new direction for this most lyrically gifted of improvisers.
With music that ranges from original songs to a ‘translucently beautiful’ (****The Guardian) extended meditation on a traditional Gaelic ballad, this is music that absorbs and enchants. The quartet’s new ECM album, Surrounded by Sea, is ‘a career-defining moment for Sheppard’. (**** Jazzwise)
Andy Sheppard’s first leader date for ECM was the 2008 recording Movements In Colour (where Eivind Aarset was one of the featured guitarists). In addition to the aforementioned Trio Libero album Sheppard can also be heard with Carla Bley and Steve Swallow on Trios (ECM 2287, recorded 2012), and on ten of Carla Bley’s albums on the ECM distributed WATT label, beginning with Fleur Carnivore in 1988. Sheppard has previously recorded as a leader for Island/Antilles, Blue Note, Verve, Label Bleu and Provocateur, written music for ensembles of every size including his Saxophone Massive project with up to 200 players, and been featured as soloist with great jazz composers and arrangers including George Russell and Gil Evans.
“Andy Sheppard’s newest ECM project adds Norwegian guitarist Eivind Aarset to the Trio Libero lineup he shares with French bassist Michel Benita and Polar Bear drummer Seb Rochford, and uses the new member’s ethereal electronics to give his music even more breathing space. There are moments, such as in the translucently beautiful Gaelic ballad Aoidh, Na Dean Cadal Idir, when the group evokes the serene murmur of Portico Quartet more than it does a sharp-end jazz band. There is a tip-toeing delicacy to much of the album, with Sheppard’s phrasing often pared to hoots and whispers, drifting on Aarset’s drones, cushioned by Benita’s countermelodies, and propelled by quiet marches and off-kilter patterns from Rochford.” **** GUARDIAN
“The singing melodic lines of Andy Sheppard’s saxophone, pared back to essentials, may be the golden thread running through this album but the rest of ensemble turn in perfectly judged performances. Benita’s is a no less melodic resonant voice, and Rochford is by turns an impossibly restrained colourist and then an urgent muted percussionist. Aarset is an inspired addition to what was already a very special collaboration. This album is a very big treat best consumed whole. Sit back and and immerse yourself in a distinctive and beautiful sound world. ” LONDON JAZZ NEWS