Christian Eckert Quartet: Up!

The liner photos on Up! show guitarist Christian Eckert looking determined and in deep concentration; his bassist Johannes Schaedlich looks beatific. The first tune, “Spinning Around,” starts with the two of them sounding just the opposite of how they look, but they quickly shift positions and those photos represent their playing on the rest of the recording. “Tale of Woe” exemplifies the complementary way guitar and bass relate, with the two of them bleeding into each other: while Eckert solos, then Schaedlich’s somber solo gives way to the guitarist’s echo-like notes.

On the lively, boppish “Changing Moods,” Eckert’s notes segue into Anke Helfrich’s crisp piano playing, while drummer Dirik Schilgen’s spacey solo slows it down before the group cranks it up again. Schaedlich renders a melodic solo on the lovely ballad “Pulmonenblues,” set off by the slightest sound of drumsticks. Pianist Helfrich switches to organ on “Sorry I’m Late,” and she wails on this bluesy 5/4 piece, compelling the others to play catch up. Eckert handles his guitar with great facility, playing a lot of single note runs, not trying to impress with speed or dexterity, but trying-and succeeding-to create expressive melody lines. The group, playing together for a few years, is a topnotch ensemble.