One of the best-kept secrets of the vibrant Danish jazz scene is drummer Michala Østergaard-Nielsen. A unique musician that can shape the course or the mood of any musical texture with her unique, serene and economic touch. She can blend organically with the vocal jazz quartet David’s Angels, the art-rock trio Nuaia (both with Swedish vocalist Sofie Norling), or the electronics meets free-improvisation of the Swedish Midaricondo duo. Her second album with her own quartet, the Østergaard Art Quartet, follows the acclaimed debut Stories from the Village (BoogiePost Recordings, 2011), and highlights her other talents, that of being a leader of strong-minded musicians and a master improviser.
The quartet is a European supergroup, featuring Norwegian trumpeter and vocalist Per Jørgensen, known from his ongoing collaborations with percussionist Terje Isungset and the trio Jøkleba, Danish trumpeter Kasper Tranberg, known from his collaboration with Yusef Lateef, Adam Rudolph in the Universal Quartet, and French master guitarist Marc Ducret.
As on the Quartet's debut, the short pieces offer an imaginary narrative of life in a remote, rural community, where music plays an integral role in the daily life. This kind of approach to music was perfected by the Art Ensemble of Chicago, embracing black music from the past to future. Østergaard Art Quartet invents its own timeless culture, located in a mysterious destination, yet a very colorful and dramatic one. The album was recorded during the Quartet Nordic tour in 2014.
The musical pieces/improvisations are weaved patiently, offering a choir of sympathetic yet highly original voices, all are experienced storytellers who know how to build a dramatic tension and then to offer a comforting conclusion. This quartet can create an intense emotional atmosphere with no more than sparse and gentle touches, breaths and whispers, as on the fascinating “Storytime”; suggest an inspiring manner of extending each other voice as delivered on “Night fall”; stage an urgent, playful and nuanced mini-drama as on “Little tiger, Part II” or offer a spiritual, meditative universe with repeated, cyclical expressions as on “Beautiful Bells and Trumpet Trance”.
My only complaint about this most beautiful gem: why just 37 minutes, after we have waited so patiently for five long years? We, all, deserve more, and if possible, sometime soon.