Thursday, September 4, 2008

Maria Kannegaard - Maryland (Moserobie, 2008) ****

There is something about modern Scandinavian jazz which makes it exceptional. Regardless of the genre, it is often creative, with musical vision and style. With 'style' I mean an adult music-for-music's sake kind of approach, and this album is another great example of that. Maria Kannegaard's band consists of herself on piano, Håkon Kornstad on tenor sax, Ole Morten Vågan on bass and Håkon Mjåset Johansen on drums. The music is structured and has clear themes, but they move each track just over the edge of newness, making it sound odd, fresh and very captivating. The rhythms become strange, the interplay bizarre, as on "Av Veien" with a piano that keeps on thundering the same chords over a wild bass and percussion for a long time, until the whole thing is sucked up by the main unison theme again, which is in itself a weird combination of light-footedness (think of the music accompanying a mouse on tiptoe in a cartoon), with a menacing undertone. "Ruslende" brings a magnificent example of how to build musical tension, with sparse romantic piano notes introducing a barely audible whispering monotone sax, supported by deep bass tones and accentuating small percussion, and a short mournful arco bass moment suddenly leads to an almost joyful tune, a big part past halfway the track. Other tracks seem more straightforward on the surface, but still have sufficient complexities to keep the attention going with repeated listens. Even the two "ballads" draw from the rich romanticism of piano jazz, but again, the great interplay lifts it a little higher, and especially Kornstad's sax-playing is excellent on both tracks, keeping the performance far away from cheap sentimentalism. Kannegaard herself is a great pianist, showcasing her skills in the long "Hit Og Dit", which starts with a long solo piano intro, moody and dark, but again spirits lift when a tune emerges from the right hand, inviting the sax to join, and the rest of the band, for an odd-metred exploration of the intro, with the sax setting the rhythm, evolving back into slow melancholy. "Förste Vake" has the same bizarre approach as "Ruslende" with the arco bass and piano playing an Chinese-sounding scale, while Kornstad explores the deeper sound regions of the horn: an eery combination.

In short, a strong compositional record, rooted in tradition with a more than modernistic approach, unafraid to create paradoxical clashes of mood, themes and sound explorations. Fresh and daring. A creative album by a great band.

Listen and download from Moserobie.

© stef

1 comment:

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