Thursday, July 12, 2018

CLT - Every Second Is a Blues (CLT Records, 2018) ****

By Sammy Stein

CLT is a trio of three musicians who have had significant impact on the Danish and international jazz scene. Double bass player Casper Nyvang Rask is included in many current releases with, among others, Henrik Pultz Melbye, Jeppe Zeeberg, Kresten Osgood, Living Things and Anders Filipsen. Lars Fiil (piano) has released 3 albums under his own name - the most recent being ‘Everything Is A Translation’ with his septet Fiil Free which I had the pleasure of reviewing. Lars also came to the UK and played at the London Jazz Platform festival which I curated in June 2017 and was a great success there. Lars is also part of notable groups including indie jazz outfit I Think You’re Awesome.
Terkel Nørgaard (drums) is the leader of the trio Reverse and has released 2 acclaimed albums. The group has also worked with musicians including Ralph Alessi, Palle Mikkelborg and Jørgen Leth. Terkel plays regularly with notable names such as Bob Rockwell, Lars Jansson and Thomas Agergaard, and he has won a Danish Music Award Jazz with the band Det Glemte Kvarter.

Out of their own projects, these three musicians have come together to form CLT, a trio that uses the energetic and intense expression common to all three musicians alongside subtlety and a response to the finer nuances in music. Every Second Is a Blues was released on 6/29/18 and was recorded in a single day. It is seven pieces of spontaneous improvisation. With no prior planning CLT creates a musical universe where there is room for both raw bursts of energy and thoughtful explorations. A common goal for the members of the trio is to let their personal expressions merge so that every track appears as a unified entity. With this in mind they change between abstract soundscapes, romantic tableaus and subtle grooves, all the time using as a point of departure the intense energy that occurs when musicians come together and develop and explore the music in the moment.
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‘Sky So Pink’ opens the CD. The track begins with chords from the piano with long, silent gaps between them, then single notes, long gaps again and those gaps have different timings but the gaps are related, making a connection which is subtle but clear. The echoey sound of the latter part enhances the openness created until around the 2.40 mark where more notes are introduced which serve to enhance the spacey atmosphere. An opener where you need to be relaxed and aware of your surroundings. ‘Well Walked Wilbur’ begins with cymbals, answered by the bass with a theme of its own, which it continues to walk whilst the percussion crashes in on occasion, the strings on the piano are strummed and amplification adds to the underlying acoustic envelope. The bass is plucked and every fretted note is clear which, over the echoey piano, makes for great listening. Deep textures underline and link the chosen registers here whilst the percussive interruptions emphasise the rhythm and sense of forbidding which creeps in before quite suddenly the intensity blooms just before the 4-minute mark and sets the competitive feel with a rocking rhythm picked up by all three players towards the slow down at the finish.

‘Vir Prudens non Contra Ventum Mingit.’ is long and , as you might expect in a totally improvised and spontaneous number consists of a dialogue, built up first by the keys and percussion with bass under the radar initially but as it develops each musician has more to say, a bit to add and something to enhance or reflect. The piano sets the key notes and changes initially with percussion connecting to the rhythmic yet flowing riffs but the intensity grows until before you know it, all three are in the discussion, bowed bass providing the foundations on which the others build. As the piano adds more textures and intriguing lines, the percussion picks up the pace and the bass follows, adding its own motifs and commentary for the ears. The middle section is more spacey and airy offering great contrast to the first section and some lovely counterpoint rhythms are set up and swapped among the musicians. At the end some classical influences override the free-flowing essence from Lars and the ending is pure classical. ‘Indigo Fall On The Sea’ is a contrast in every way. Short, very sweet and bass. With flowing, ebbing and falling away, reminiscent of waves (hence the title), the body of the bass speaks as it is bowed, tweaked, banged, plucked and played in ways which bring out the best of the wood. A glorious number.

‘Every Second Is a Blues’ is fast-delivered, rapid fire and intense from the off with every member throwing the gauntlet to the others, picking up theirs and returning and echoing riffs as they are laid briefly down. At times it sounds too much like a competition between three excellent players but it does resolve itself over the course of the number into something which makes perfect creative sense as the musicians begin to listen, tune into and feel more deeply part of each other’s playing. Initially I wondered why this was the title track but understanding dawned as I listened. By the end there is a sense of complete togetherness and the interest here is in how this track literally evolves over the four minutes or so it runs – it is rare to get the chance to hear a number develop form the offset to the finish but here, listen and you can hear it. True spontaneous improvisation.

‘Yellow Panic On the Train’ begins with a few spaced out percussive elements before a rhythm is established, sounding eerily like the train of the title – no panic yet. Then off we go on a journey of percussive discovery, the rhythms fast, furious and turning on a hairpin from rocky to free-form and heavy on the snare. Panic now! A wonderful track to wake the senses. Too short.

‘In Angulo Cum Libello’ closes the album. It begins with single bell strikes, under which the bass sets up its own rhythms before the percussion changes into a more complex delivery with drums, cymbals and other percussive implements. The piano introduces a lovely flowing element across the top which enhances rather than covers the dickery trickery of the bass and drums underneath. Rhythms are exchanged and the flow lines here are simply wonderful with musical suggestions being sent across and returned in rapid fire but gentle form between the musicians. There is a sense in this track of complete integration between the elements each musician brings and I cannot tell you how wonderful this is to listen to. They are all listening, all engaged totally and all playing to create wonderful improvised harmonies. A great track to close this fine CD.

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