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Saturday, September 1, 2012

Into the Quiet: Vesper and Time

Niels Lyhne Lokkegaard - Vesper (Self Produced, 2012) ****

By Paul Acquaro

Moody, brooding, lush and seductive, Niels Lyhne Lokkegaard's Vesper is a study in atmosphere and restraint. Likewise, guitarist Jakob Bro's Time, who appears on both recordings reviewed here, is also a spacious and deeply moving recording.

The Danish Saxophonist's fourth album begins with the Vesper song cycle: dark hued tone poems that drip slowly and richly with slowly unfolding moving melodies. Lokkegaard expertly draws on the talents of a fairly large group consisting of Jakob Buchanan on flugelhorn, Jakob Bro on guitar, Marilyn Mazur on percussion, and Ole Visdby, Tine Vitkov, Birgit Bøgh Sønderiis and Mette Alrø Stoktoft on clarinets.

'Vesper I' features the textures of the wind instruments, while 'Vesper II' begins with a moving introduction by Bro. His playing brings to mind the tones and harmonies used by Bill Frisell but also introduces his own unique voice. Mazur's percussion bubbles up from below adding a delicate but sturdy underlayment that accentuates the textures of the horns. The other tracks of the recording follow suit. From the quiet reflective stance of the music, evening prayers as the title suggests, there is warmth and hope. Simply gorgeous.

Jakob Bro - Time (Loveland Records, 2011) ****

As with many recordings with guitarist Bill Frisell involved, there is a certain American folk aspect to the album by Danish guitarist Jakob Bro. In addition to the two guitarists in this percussion-less quartet, saxophone legend Lee Konitz lends his breathy tone and wholly original melodies and Thomas Morgan provides bass. Their sound is ephemeral, tinged with overtones and suspense, and like Vesper, there is an underlying hopefulness to the songs.

Exemplifying this is the track 'Fiordlands' where the two guitarists spin a fragile web that Konitz deftly crawls through. Frisell's aforementioned harmonic language -- the ringing tones, staccato accents, light electronic manipulations -- bely deep Americana roots that are strong throughout, providing scaffolding but never overshadowing Bro's patient melodies. Time too is a delicate and spacious album.

While Bro is the physical connection between these two recordings, there is something much deeper too. Their quiet and contemplative and uncomplicated sound is actually the result of sophisticated compositions and prescient playing. Both groups approach the music in a way that effectively uses time and space in satisfying spare and evocative ways.

© stef