Lucent Waters is a spray of vivid contrasts: contemplative pin-drop quietude giving way to explosive outbursts; dramatic displays of camaraderie offset by moments of solitary exploration; unfettered splashes of color met by stretches of wistful, deliberate restraint. The participants—German pianist Weber (whose prior ECM release was a series of duets with trumpeter Markus Stockhausen), bassist Linda May Han Oh, drummer Nasheet Waits and trumpeter Ralph Alessi—convened for the project as a first-time quartet with limited experience together. Weber and Waits had never collaborated before, but the pianist had solid history with the other two.
Weber and Oh, in fact, once made up two-thirds of a trio with altoist Lee Konitz, to whom the Alessi-less track “Honestlee,” one of the lengthiest on this recording, is dedicated. It’s a particular highlight, beginning (as is often the case on Lucent Waters) in a whispery, nearly inaudible hush as Weber, Oh, and Waits allow ample time for their collective ideas to unfold, then easing back out again. “Fragile Cocoon” is the polar opposite in temperament, and this time Alessi makes his presence known, edging sneakily toward the anarchic and taking the others along with him. Credit producer Manfred Eicher for always letting things go where they may.
It all comes together most effectively on “From Cousteau’s Point of View.” Weber has cited its “mystery” as a key element, and that’s an apt summation: It’s at its most seductive when it’s at its least structured, the musicians dancing around one another madly in odd-meter rhythms that shouldn’t even be in the same room at the same time. It’s enveloping, bright, and joyful when it should make no sense at all.