Monday, 17 December 2007

Lars Danielsson, Nils Landgren, Christopher Dell...

I thought I'd finished the Scandinavian theme, but then I found this.

The CD is one of the best I've reviewed for a long time, and a perfect soundtrack for Christmas. Perfect, that is, in as much as it is as far away from the brash, garish and generally unpleasant echoes that can be found everywhere at this time of year.

Other than retailers and undertakers, does anybody over the age of 4 actually need Christmas?

Comments, as always, are welcome...

Salzau Music On The Water
ACT (9445-2)

Salzau Music On The Water Parts I to XI.

Lars Danielsson (b); Christopher Dell (vib); Nils Landgren (tb).
Recorded July 4th 2005, Jazz Baltica Festival.

One of the great things about the early satellite TV revolution was the availability of a number of German regional TV stations, all of which broadcast healthy doses of live jazz. It was through these broadcasts that I came to know the Jazz Baltica festival, programmed by Ganelin Trio drummer, and all-round ‘renaissance man’, Vladimir Tarasov. This recording, from the 2005 edition of the festival, is typical of the ambitious boundary breaking programming of a festival that regularly presents the cream of Europe’s creative jazz artists.

A remarkable almost zen-like meditation, Salzau Music On The Water was recorded at 5AM, and was shaped to an unusual degree by time and place. Lasting just over an hour, the eleven improvised movements of this suite were performed in the middle of a sound installation built on the the jetty protruding into the Salzau palace pond. The installation is ten years old, and was created by Tarasov and Ilya Kabakov, who arranged dangling metal ‘found’ objects around the roof of the jetty, creating a rich and indeterminate set of wind chimes that never sound the same twice. Not always audible during this performance, the chimes are nevertheless a soothing undertow during the quieter passages.

The 5AM start time, coinciding with sunrise, has the serendipitous effect of enlisting the lake’s dawn chorus for added atmosphere. Dell’s vibraphone chording, which provides a hypnotic lead into ‘Part I’, blends eerily with the clinking of the installation’s metal. Part chimes, part gamelan, he gives the music its free-floating and expansive feel. Danielsson’s bass is perhaps a little spongy and under-recorded, though it provides the music with a palpably living pulse. Landgren, the man with the red horn who is best known for plugged-in funk, closely resembles the Bob Brookmeyer of the Guiffre 3. Breathy, fluid, lyrical and earthy, he will be a revelation to those unfamiliar with the gentler side of his work.

Veering between forward momentum and timelessness, the eleven pieces are exemplary studies of concentration. Only ‘Part XI’, with it’s plaintive melody and Landgren’s declamatory blues phrasing, breaks the mould. Unexpectedly dissolving into the ambient noise of Salzau, this short release provides a fitting closure to a work of trio virtuosity of uncommon brilliance.

Fred Grand
(Jazz Review, July 2007)

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