Mikkel Ploug Group: Harmoniehof (2009)
Danish guitarist Mikkel Ploug, a rising player in the vein of such contemporaries as Kurt Rosenwinkel and Torben Waldorff, articulates his own vocabularyone that contains folk, rock, and modern jazz sensibilities. Harmoniehof, the follow-up to Ploug's eponymous 2006 debut on Fresh Sound New Talent featuring saxophonist Mark Turner, further illuminates his tightly knit band.
Turner's ubiquitous voice (constant session work, and a member of the critically acclaimed collaborative group Fly), has been an integral part of Ploug's group and fits well with the music's harmonic constructs and the anchored underpinning of bassist Jeppe Skovbakke and drummer Sean Carpio.
"Introduction"'s lament sets the tone, followed by the pastoral "Awkward Sentences," where Ploug's chorded soloing swirls together with Turner's ardent lyricism. This offering contains variety: bucolic melodies ("Motion"), quirky bop ("Enthusiasts"), aerial acrobatics ("First Rhapsody") and some solo instrumental pieces.
Though the balance feels uneven towards the latter half of the set with its slower and introspective mood, the musicianship is beyond reproach, as witnessed in the solo piecesTurner's birdsong in "Intro II" and later, Ploug's magical strings in "Intro III." Another favorite includes "Second Around"'s circuitous tempo, peppered by heady swing-timeSkovbakke's robust bass, Carpio's rambunctious solo and extended flights by the lead voices. The title track is the cornerstone: a touching lullaby where Ploug weaves chords, single notes and harmonics like silk fabric, as Turner's reed echoes the melody.
Though not quite as satisfying as the debut, Harmoniehof is an evolving statement of Ploug's clear abilities as a leader, player and composer. It will be of interest to see where he ventures next.
Track Listing: Introduction; Awkward Sentences; Enthusiasts; Motion; Second Around; Intro; Harmoniehof; Pablos Stroll; Molto Moderato-First Rhapsody; Intro II; Soft Spoken; Intro III; Somewhere Soon.
Personnel: Mark Turner: saxophone; Mikkel Ploug: guitar; Jeppe Skovbakke: bass; Sean Carpio: drums.