Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Kasper Villaume...

Thought I'd return to the Scandinavian theme again, as it seems to me like unfinished business.

There's nothing very Scandinavian about the music on this CD, and apart from its great cover there's not really anything much to recommend it, either. As I state in the review, it's the kind of jazz you can now hear anywhere. Well played, won't disappoint, but distinguished? I didn't think so.

I was of course thinking of Charlie Parker's "If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn" remark in my summary. Too much jazz sounds learned as opposed to lived these days, but that's another issue. I'm off to listen to AMM's Newfoundland in protest...

# 2

Bubbles; All The Things You Are; Quartet #2; I Wish I Knew; My Man’s Gone Now; The Speedmaster; Villaumenizer; Song; Blame It On My Youth.

Lars Moller (ts); Kasper Villaume (p); Jesper Bodilsen (b); Morten Lund (d).
Recorded December 2002.

The cover of Danish pianist Kasper Villaume’s new disc shows him astride an old upright piano, placed in front of an external wall with his back to the camera. More a comment on the play-anywhere-to-make-a-living culture that most jazz musicians find themselves caught up in than a foretaste of anything heard on the far from rough and ready recording it wraps. Self-taught as a jazz pianist, Villaume was in fact classically trained before choosing to eke out a living playing the music he prefers.

He recently recorded in New York with Jeff ‘Tain” Watts, but for #2 he returns with his established quartet of beefy tenorist Lars Moller, who gets an equal share of the solo space, and dependable bass/drums team of Bodilsen and Lund. The pianist’s style draws liberally from the Evans/Jarrett/Petrucciani schools, gaining extra fruitiness with a spiking of Garner and Monk. This is the kind of ‘traditional’ post-Coltrane jazz now found in any major city in the world , and they motor through the well-balanced programme of standards and ‘originals’ (that somehow manage to sound like standards) with considerable ease.

The title track is one of those fiendishly complex Chick Corea pieces, and it contains the disc’s most extrovert playing, pushing the group to the edge for the only time. Arne Forchammer’s sympathetic sleevenotes are curiously apologetic for Villaume’s exhumation of warhorses like ‘All The Things You Are’ and ‘I Wish I Knew’, and perhaps unwittingly he uncovers the disc’s most problematic feature. Despite the fresh and ingenious interpretation of ‘My Man’s Gone Now’ (equal parts ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’), too many of the pieces are simply unremarkable. ‘Bubbles’ is bright enough, but it unashamedly harks back to Jarrett’s Scandinavian Quartet, whilst ‘The Speedmaster’ sounds uncomfortably close to one of those generic Kenny Wheeler pieces from the same era.

‘Villaumenizer’ riffs with a now public domain Tyner pedal-vamp to pleasing effect, but the closing solo piano interpretation of ‘Blame It On My Youth’ is a bit of a damp squib. It’s not easy to discern just how much of the quartet’s expression is learned as opposed to lived. For all of the many qualities to be found on #2, I probably damn it with faint praise in saying that it made me want to listen more to the music it references along the way than to Villaume’s own slightly stale version of it.

Fred Grand
(Jazz Review, June 2005)

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