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Hess Is More: 80 Years

Roger Farbey By

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In truth, 80 Years may not be everyone's cup of tea, at least, not all of it. However in the midst of this marriage of Kraftwerk-esque synth pop and Carl Orff-like cantata there are some moments of exquisite jazz. Following the two initial synth- plus-singing tracks of the "80 Years" suite, the first intimation that there is any link to jazz occurs on "80 Years Part III" courtesy of Tom Harrell's echo-enhanced, bluesy trumpet cadenza. Harrell is also notably heard on "Recollection of 80 Years," again unaccompanied. "Chopin," at 9 minutes the longest track, is arguably the most engaging piece, underpinned by a steady 4/4 pulse, it's overlaid with all manner of electronica and the sporadic choral interjections of the East Coast Inspirational Singers.

The opening to "It's Backwards No Matter What I Do, Part I" invokes shades of Francis Monkman's menacing synthesizer lines on the memorable main theme to The Long Good Friday soundtrack. But this is then joined by synthesized robotic vocals in a vibrantly melodic number. Matt Parker lays down some ethereal flute and spacey sax on "It's Backwards No Matter What I Do, Part III," with the underlying echo-laden drum beat hypnotically insistent. This melee segues into "It's Backwards No Matter What I Do, Part IV," the sparse rhythmic pattern continuing steadily and over which the horns variously solo. The closing track "You May" is pure pop, an affecting, gentle ballad sung by Hess.

This is Danish drummer Mikkel Hess's seventh album with his Hess Is More outfit, but his first for the ever-outward looking Edition Records label. There's much to admire here. Hess's compositions are strong and consistently intriguing. You'll want to play this one again, immediately.

Track Listing: 80 Years, Part I; 80 Years, Part II; 80 Years, Part III; Chopin; Recollection of 80 Years; It's Backwards No Matter What I Do, Part I; It's Backwards No Matter What I Do, Part II; It's Backwards No Matter What I Do, Part III; It's Backwards No Matter What I Do, Part IV; You May.

Personnel: Mikkel Hess: vocal, drums, keyboard, bass, guitar; Tom Harrell: trumpet; Matt Parker: tenor and soprano saxophone, flute, clarinet; Rasmus Bille Bahncke: Roland SH-101 synthesizer; David Mason: electric drums, sequencer, drum machine. Programming; W. Andrew Raposo: bass; Nikolaj Hess: keyboard; Daniel Nentwig: keyboard; Rune Olesen: percussion; East Coast Inspirational Singers: vocals.

Title: 80 Years | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Edition Records

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