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Simon Spang-Hanssen Quartet: Noctiflore (2005)

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Simon Spang-Hanssen Quartet: Noctiflore No stars How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

After having listened through Noctiflore several times under various circumstances, I bathed my ears properly in it one afternoon. There is no other remedy as good as an ear bath! To sit or lie comfortably with your eyes closed and disperse your ears into music, at a reasonably loud volume, with nothing else happening except the musical movements. Remedy for what? Well, I'd say for just about anything. There's not much in this world that can't be cured by one or two hours of musical energy.

The effect of my Noctiflore ear bath was astonishing: the CD grew so much stronger, with Simon Spang-Hanssen's powerful tenor in front of a quartet playing his own compositions (except one song by Georges Brassens). This powerful brew combines some elements that are not so easily defined—because this is not your ordinary post bop, hard bop, neo-bop, fusion, or whatever else we hear all over the jazz circuit today.

Simon Spang-Hanssen is a Danish musician who started his career in the '70s, and after having played in one of the first lineups of the legendary jazz/world unit New Jungle Orchestra, he moved to Paris, where he spent a large part of both the '80s and '90s. Today he travels between Denmark and France. Noctiflore, recorded in Paris and released by the Swiss Altrisuoni label, is a result of a collaboration with French musicians, and it seems to be flavored by continental European jazz, as opposed to various Scandinavian jazz styles or the American-influenced bop variety.

Franck Tortiller alternates between vibraphone and marimba, and these instruments add an obvious flavor without getting monotonous. I don't miss the keyboard sound, and the marimba creates an excellent contrast to Spang-Hanssen's heavy-duty sax. Yves Torchinsky's powerful bass playing matches the sax well, and the drumming (on some tracks replaced by percussion) by François Laizeau is right on the spot.

Noctiflore offers good songwriting with clear, strong themes and a clear, rather strict form without long excursions. The musicians do their thing and come back, letting each of the pieces finish after about five minutes. Well, actually jazz tunes don't have to last ten to twelve minutes—but I must admit that I sometimes miss some more free playing beyond the theme/solo/theme form...

This recording may be classified as mainstream, but that's only because none of the other categories seem to fit. But Noctiflore is distinct and melodic jazz with its very own character.

Visit Simon Spang-Hanssen on the web.

Track Listing: Bata Birthday; Noctiflore; Antidote; Time to Change; Rainbow Reed; Porto Alegre; La Mauvaise Reputation; Song for Silver; Minor Incident; Smoke Signals.

Personnel: Simon Spang-Hanssen: tenor saxophone; Franck Tortiller: vibraphone, marimba; Yves Torchinsky: bass; Franois Laizeau: drums, percussion.

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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