With recent appearances at the North Sea Jazz Festival and other more intimate venues, guitarist Mikkel Ploug's star has been ascendingnot only in his native Denmark, but also in various overlapping international jazz circles. Last year, he received his BTA with a two-month residency in New York City, and in the process made some interesting musical connections. As a result, this debut offering from the Mikkel Ploug Group finds him inviting the crisp horn of NYC-based tenor saxophonist Mark Turner to be a part of the action.
An improviser somewhat influenced by Trane, Turner adds his own take on these melodic Ploug originals. The amicable compositions and the neo-boppish style of Ploug's trio blend exceedingly well with Turner's tuneful approach for a refreshingly uncluttered program. The session is a decidedly global affair; Copenhagen's first-call bassist Jeppe Skovbakke and Dublin's top working drummer Sean Caprio provide a fluidly rhythmic foundation. All delicately straddle an engagingly thin line between straying too far from the music's intent and presenting an organized program.
This cohesive quality is due primarily to the manner in which Turner's tone sonically integrates with Ploug's guitar. Not a classically corpulent tenor sound, but sleeker and more agile, in the vein of a soprano player, it enables the two frontmen to trade off and combine for a very clean, though not sterile, sound. While each goes his own way at times, the most satisfying cuts are those that have the two blending against a very tuneful rhythm section.
Ploug is also impressive with melodies that do not become clichéd, quite ethereal chordalscape augmentations, intricate improvisations and slickly complex picked-out lines. Featuring Mark Turner is a strong collaborative first effort from a young guitarist that we will hopefully be hearing from again.
Personnel: Mikkel Ploug: guitar; Mark Turner: tenor saxophone; Jeppe Skovbakke: bass; Sean Carpio: drums.