Traeben: Push (2011)
The sound of Netherlands-based Traeben is one of unity. While guitarist Jens Larsen and saxophonist Søren Ballegaard unmistakably form the frontline, the chemistry and interplay between these four young musicians is key to understanding Traeben.
The quartet's first album, Nordic Project (O.A.P., 2008), was recorded after the four members got together at Hague Conservatory. Nordic Project provided a platform for exploring the ground where Scandinavian melody and jazz rhythms meet.
Traeben's second offering is Push. The album opens with the delightful and aptly named "Top Dog," where delicate percussion and a tenor saxophone melody set the tempered mood for the rest of the album. Following Larsen's cadenced guitar intro, Traeben gets promptly into the groove with a layered guitar passage weaving effortlessly in and out of the rhythm section. Larsen's previous collaborations with saxophonist Michael Brecker, trombonist Slide Hampton and guitarist John Abercrombie have provided him a confident style, and an ability to shine during even the briefest passages.
Throughout the ten original songs on Push, Ballegaard is constantly and consistently searching, building and creating. The rest of the band supports his excursions with grace and, as each solo comes to an end, the reassuringly delicate harmony returns to the fore and everything is as it was. Life is good.
Clocking in at nine minutes, the challenging "Can You?" offers Traeben a wide canvas upon which to stretch out. Initially plodding along with melancholy tenor saxophone and guitar lines, the song unhurriedly creates a complex mood that leaves a lasting impression.
"We'll Let You Know" is at once fresh and noir. Elegant opening chords give way to a darker, defiant presence at the two-minute mark, when a chorus of weighty guitar chords and heavy hearted tenor saxophone indicate an element of discontent over a missed opportunity.
On Push, Traeben is consistently playful, spacious and dynamic. The band treats each song as if it were a story, with a beginning, middle and end. Solos and improvisations form the building blocks that unfold the plot. While tempered and occasionally overcautious, the restrained, relaxed and often reassuringly groovy collection of songs on Push is extremely easy on the ear.
Track Listing: Top Dog; Try to Remember; God Makes Backups; Can You?; Catatraffic; All It Needs; We’ll Let You Know; Simple Things; Nothing Or Nothing At All; Mi Hijo.
Personnel: Jens Larsen: guitar; Søren Ballegaard: tenor saxophone; Olaf Meijer: bass; Haye Jellema: drums.