The Jazzpar Combo 1999: Shortcuts
Deducing how this album by the Jazzpar Combo came about is rather tricky business. Each year, Denmark’s prestigious Jazzpar Prize is awarded to an outstanding musician who is, as a part of the honor, given a recording date with sidemen of his or her own choice. In 1999 the Jazzpar Prize was bestowed on French pianist Martial Solal who recorded with the Danish Radio Jazz Orchestra and in a smaller group with bassist Mads Vinding and drummer Daniel Humair. So how did this particular album emerge? I really can’t say. A press release notes only that “reed player Hans Ulrik was in 1999 chosen as the Danish band leader in connection with the 2000 Jazzpar Project.” Ulrik didn’t win the Jazzpar Prize in 2000; it was awarded that year to American saxophonist Chris Potter. Apparently, a Danish(?) non–winner also gets to record with musicians he or she has chosen. From the list of past Jazzpar recordings contained in the booklet that accompanies this CD, that would seem to be the case, as there are a number of them by musicians who did not win the prize (but I can’t affirm that all of the leaders are Danish). In any case, Ulrik wanted for his Jazzpar Combo guitarist John Scofield, drummer Peter Erskine and Swedish bassist Lars Danielsson, and persuaded all of them to say yes. In Ulrik’s words, a “dream team.” So we should have a dream of an album too, right? Well, I suppose that depends on one’s musical tastes. Shortcuts, while consistently well–played by all hands, isn’t my cup of tea, or whatever they’re drinking in Denmark these days. But I don’t mean to sell anyone short; the music isn’t in any sense disagreeable, and the group interplay is splendid. I am simply unable to forge the sort of emotional bond that would upraise the session in my mind from merely competent to truly pleasurable. Others may have no problem doing so. The music is all original, although it’s not entirely clear who wrote what (we are told that Danielsson composed the ballad “Falling Down,” Erskine “Twelve,” Scofield “Bossa” and “Green Tea”). Perhaps Ulrik wrote the others. Half the tracks were recorded in concert (two at Randers, two at Holbaek), the others in the Danish Radio studio. Ulrik’s keen–edged, contemporary tenor (think Lovano, James Carter, Branford Marsalis, etc.) is fine, his melodious soprano (on “Falling Down,” “Bossa”) even better. He and the “dream team” have evidently produced an album of music that they strongly believe in; I wish I could get more excited about it.
Contact:Stunt Records, 29 W. Maple Avenue, Bellmawr, NJ 08031 (phone 856–931–6441; fax 856–931–6445. www.sundance.dk
Track Listing: About Things; Falling Down; Peculiar; Short Cuts; Music of My People; Twelve; Bossa; Green Tea (50:23).
Personnel: Hans Ulrik, tenor, soprano saxophone; John Scofield, guitars; Lars Danielsson, bass; Peter Erskine, drums.