Double Standards: Volume One & Volume Two
Volume One & Volume Two
It's sometimes asserted that, when it comes to the best known standard tunes, every conceivable angle worth exploring has already been explored. With tunes like "Body And Soul" or "All Of You," for instance, what could possibly be said that hasn't already been said a thousand times over? Well, a whole lot, actually, in the right musicians' hands. For songs of this quality are like portals: if you open them up and step inside, you will find entire galaxies waiting to be rediscovered.
The 14 classic tunes revisited here by the Double Standards quartet, from Great American Songbook composers like Cole Porter and George Gershwin through to more contemporary voices like Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter, are each treated in an unconventional but respectful fashion. The group don't take the songs to strange, discordant places that might displease the more cautious listenerthe arrangements do embark on some new directions, but they always stay faithful to the original spirit of the material.
Double Standards come from Sweden. Their leader, saxophonist Cennet Jönsson, has toured with drummer Billy Cobham in North By Northwest and has gigged with pioneering bop trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. He has also worked on several occasions with saxophonist Dave Liebman, who says that Jönsson is one of a few artists worldwide who can make the soprano saxophone "sing" and who is "elevating the soprano to a higher level." Another ranking saxophonist, the late Michael Brecker, was a fan too, considering Jönsson a "mature musical thinker, writer and player" who constructs "captivating creative vehicles."
Jönsson's considerable gifts are complemented by pianist Jacob Karlzon's distinctive melodic approach, while Hans Andersson's flexible bass playing ties everything together (an essential role for someone in open arrangements like these). Drummer Peter Nilsson, with his heavily accented playing, creates his own rhythmic symphony within each song.
This is music with muscle but also plenty of intellect. There are no dull moments, no routine playing, and instead a strong, in-the-moment live feeling. It's simultaneously expressive and thoughtful, down-to-earth and abstract; never cold or theoretical, not afraid of being beautiful. Throughout both discs there's a delightfully fresh "first-take feeling.
Volume One starts with "Invitation," given a Latin flavor, followed by "Long Ago And Far Away", "United," Shorter's contemporary classic "Footprints", and the bop warhorse "Out Of Nowhere". The penultimate track, "All Of You," has a long soprano introduction, and as the other musicians join in, the song's theme slowly starts to take shape, with the rhythm left floating free. Closing Volume One is a beautiful version of "I'll Remember April".
Opening Volume Two is "Solar"at first played solo by Jönsson. "Body And Soul" starts with just a light piano, focusing on soul rather than body, before the saxophone enters with the theme, still in a soft, poetic mood, while the piano notes trinkle like raindrops falling from tree branches. Several other tunes also start with only one player, with the others taking turns through the song in different combinations. Only occasionally does the whole quartet play togetherbut giving space to each other is also a way of playing. "Afro Blue" comes next, in swinging 5/4, followed by a beautifully read "Soul Eyes," a warm "Old Folks" and a thoughtful "Nefertiti." Closing Volume Two is Horace Silver's "Peace."
The band name Double Standards corresponds well to the level of the music the quartet plays. Body and soul? Yes, they have it both. But brains and spirit sums it up even better.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Invitation; Long Ago And Far Away; United; Out Of Nowhere; Footprints; All Of You; I'll Remember April.
Tracks: Solar; Body And Soul; Afro Blue; Soul Eyes; Old Folks; Nefertiti; Peace.
Personnel: Cennet Jönsson: soprano and tenor saxophone; Jacob Karlzon: piano; Hans Andersson: bass; Peter Nilsson: drums.