The highly revered saxophonist-composer John Tchicai has performed with larger than life jazz icons such as John Coltrane, Archie Shepp and was a member of the now legendary “New York Art Quartet”. Besides his long-standing influence on the avant-garde scene, Tchicai has been actively involved in the burgeoning Danish “modern jazz” scene. Spirited contributions to Pierre Dorge’s New Jungle Orchestra on this years “Giraf” cd (see AAJ July ’99 review) and other stouthearted engagements have proven noteworthy as Mr. Tchicai himself is of Congolese-Danish origin. On Moonstone Journey “music by John Tchicai played by Ok Nok....Kongo” (an anagram) features the master along with some of the most exciting Danish jazz musicians on today’s scene. The results are profoundly rewarding!
The title track, “Moonstone Journey” features a bouncy, borderline bop-ish motif, enhanced by Nils Davidsen’s killer walking bass line which emphasizes the hard-edged meter and clever horn arrangement. Tchicai’s soprano sax along with the extremely talented multi-woodwind man, Thomas Agergaard chair the lead solo duties as “A Chaos With Some Kind of Order” steadily evolves over a hybrid African-Latin beat. Here, the twin saxophonists seem comfortable trading often glistening, majestic choruses. On “Spirals Of Ruby” , the horn section speaks volumes and authoritatively over a heavy funk-rock beat; hence a multi-layered and quite captivating arrangement.
The confidence and originality of this band serve Mr. Tchicai’s compositions well as “Climbing The Mountain” commences with Mads Hyhne’s explosive trombone solo...This piece takes off into “hard swing” territory, accentuated by Tchicai’s intense blowing yet keenly intelligent phrasing on tenor. Again, Nils Davidsen provides the booming bass along with the crisp drumming of Martin Andersen. "Hypothesis” is slightly chamberesque, with nods to free jazz, ultimately evolving into a melodic swing romp. On this piece, clarinetist Peter Fuglsang performs articulately, augmented by brief yet poignant choruses from the horn section acting as catalysts. Again, Tchicai’s high-octane tenor sax soloing is a sheer delight while at times counter balancing the tight as a drum horn charts. Soft textural arrangements on “At The Lotus Lake” and upbeat, odd-metered funk close out this recording on “Monk Me”
This octet does not reinvent modern jazz yet communicates a distinctively appealing yet stylized demeanor, which works wonders. Danish Jazz is on the move once again and for those of you in the New York City area this September, be sure to catch the Danish Jazz festival at various locations in or around the City. It should be well worth your time! * * * * ½
Thomas Agergaard; Soprano Sax, Tenor Sax, Flute: Martin Andersen; Drums: Niclas Knudsen; Guitar: Kasper Tranberg; Cornet: Nils Davidsen; Bass: Mads Hyhne; Trombone: Peter Fuglsang; Alto Sax, Clarinet: John Tchicai; Soprano Sax, Tenor Sax.