Wondering, is a new release from the fine Denmark based record label, “Dacapo Records”. Danish jazz is alive and well while making gainful commercial and artistic strides within the International Modern Jazz scene. On Wondering, saxophonist Simon Spang-Hanssen with his group, “Maneklar” parallel Denmark’s beloved “New Jungle Orchestra” with the incorporation of cross-cultural rhythmic elements along with, East meets West slants and motifs.
Simon Spang-Hanssen is a very impressive technician whether performing on alto or soprano sax. Simply put, this guy can play! Hanssen has spent some time shedding with Vietnamese jazz guitarist Nguyen Le, the celebrated drummer Billy Hart and ethnic-world music projects involving Turkish and Brazilian music. Needless to say, Spang-Hanssen’s broad compositional range is very much evident on Wondering. The opener, “Charbon” features Spang-Hanssen on alto sax trading complex yet endearing choruses with the fabulous flutist Mariane Bitran. “Charbon”, like most of these pieces effectively illustrate multifaceted and cross-genre percussion patterns. “Brain Forest” features charging yet unobtrusive percussion elements enhanced by drummer and guest artist, Marilyn Mazur. Here, Bitran takes an extended flute solo which anchors the Oriental motif as Spang-Hanssen fires off flurries of Coltrane inspired, thought provoking soprano sax choruses. Throughout this recording, the percussion duo of Ole Thiell (tablas) and Jakob Andersen (perc.) along with bassist Peter Danstrup synch up in gregarious fashion. The East meets West blend is invigorating and refreshing.
“Space On Earth” has a slight Brazilian tinge as Spang-Hanssen’s rapid fire and beaming alto sax work rides atop the hybrid percussion work. Balkan motifs and fine soloing resurface on “Maneklar”, as the album’s closer, “Soir Bon” possesses a pleasant and memorable hook, featuring strong tabla work and multi-textured percussion.
Wondering is yet further evidence of an enormously talented conglomerate of Danish Jazz musicians who are willing to take chances yet produce music that is surprisingly accessible. ****
Simon Spang-Hanssen; Alto & Soprano Sax: Mariane Bitran; Alto & C-Flute: Peter Danstrup; Bass & Bass Synth: Ole Thiell; Tablas: Jakpb Andersen; Percussion. Guest Artists: Marilyn Mazur; Drums (selected tracks): Klaus Nordso; Congas (selected tracks)