NEW CD released by  ECM Records
ECM 2537

music and words by Michael Mantler

Himiko Paganotti  voice
Michael Mantler  

MAX BRAND Ensemble
conducted by Christoph Cech

Annegret Bauerle  flute
Peter Tavernaro
Gregor Narnhofer
Eberhard Reiter
 bass clarinet
Balduin Wetter
 French horn
Tobias Ennemoser
Joanna Lewis
Simon Frick
Simon Schellnegger
Arne Kircher
Tibor Kövesdi
Sun Yi
 vibraphone, marimba
David Helbock

scores of all compositions available here
listen to selected excerpts

About COMMENT C'EST  ( Français   Deutsch  )

Comment c'est (How it is) is a song cycle for female voice and chamber orchestra. Wanting to use French, a language that so beautifully lends itself to be sung, I had long been thinking of using a certain type of voice from French popular music in a totally different and serious context. When the project finally came to be realized I luckily found a very interesting French electro-pop/jazz singer, Himiko Paganotti.

She turned out to be the perfect choice, having a tremendous range, both musically and emotionally. Introduced to me by John Greaves, an old cohort of mine, she had worked with him and in many different contexts, including the French cult rock-jazz band Magma. Our first occasion to work together was at a concert in Paris during 2014 with the Chaos Orchestra of composers Daniel Yvinec and Arnaud Petit. This collaboration resulted in a lengthy work entitled Oiseaux de Guerre (Birds of War), which dealt with atrocities of the Iraq war. Continuing from there, wanting to explore the voice and the general theme further, I worked on creating Comment c'est. It was premiered with two concerts at Porgy & Bess in Vienna during September 2016.

I have always kept my musical life as abstract as possible, never directly related to programmatic influences or themes, such as world politics, news items or personal life events. In hindsight, that was only partially successful. After all, I participated in the early Liberation Music Orchestra projects with Charlie Haden. For me, however, it was more the musical experience that counted, rather than the expression of political views. Of course, at the time, one marched on Washington, demonstrated against Vietnam and, in general, behaved anti-government, anti-business and anti-establishment.

Certain critical political-sociological world-views eventually began to appear from time to time in my work, such as in Cerco Un Paese Innocente (I search for an innocent land - another song cycle, this one in Italian), and especially in the extended sort-of-an-opera The School of Understanding, with some of its songs resurfacing, extensively revised, in this current project.

No longer able to ignore outrageous recent world events, it had simply become impossible to continue creating music without reacting to this overwhelming and pervasive environment of hatred, greed and corruption. Comment c'est therefore concerns itself quite specifically with a range of serious subjects, such as war, terrorism, hostages, migration, poverty, fear and the generally sorry state of our contemporary world.

I have always wanted to simply create music that is beautiful and that perhaps reveals something that might be deep within us all. Yet, with this music, in particular, I hope not only to touch those elusive feelings but also to more concretely tell How It Is.

-- Michael Mantler

ECM 2391


In the process of digitizing various old scores, Michael Mantler re-acquainted himself with some of his earliest compositions, in particular the material from his classic, ground-breaking 1968 double-album The Jazz Composer's Orchestra which had featured such icons as Cecil Taylor, Don Cherry, Roswell Rudd, Pharoah Sanders, Larry Coryell and Gato Barbieri as "free jazz" soloists within the context of a large jazz orchestra. Only some of these compositions were performed live, in 1969 at the Electric Circus in New York.

Mantler became intrigued anew by this music to envisage performing it again, and the ensuing JAZZ COMPOSER'S ORCHESTRA UPDATE project was presented and recorded at Porgy & Bess in Vienna during 2013. The program included a complete re-working of all the pieces from the album, as well as of even older material, some of it never before performed or recorded.

More information (including complete personnel, scores, audio excerpts and an interview with Michael Mantler) here.

The complete program as it appears on the CD was performed live during 2015 at the Moers Festival and again at the Lisbon Jazz in August Festival (with the Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos). Another performance took place at the German Jazzfestival Frankfurt (this time with the hr-Bigband) and an excerpt can be seen on YouTube. The project was again presented with the Nouvelle Cuisine Bigband at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam during July 2016.

 last updated:  November 3 , 2017