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Jens Jefsen: A Secret Sigh

Mark Sullivan By

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Veteran Danish bassist Jens Jefsen could be a one-man band, but instead he accomplishes a rare feat here: a bass-centric recording that does not sound like a "bass album." Each track includes multiple bass parts—pizzicato and arco—along with percussive bass sounds and other percussion by Jefsen. While this description may sound like an endless bass solo, the music is carefully arranged instead, with the bass often taking a lyrical lead role. And all but one of the tunes includes at least one of the nine featured musicians, providing a constantly shifting group sound.

The opener "How You Like Your Egg" is a catchy contemporary jazz tune employing a lead bass part with a bass ensemble, along with drums and percussion from Morten Lund, and a bit of accompaniment from guitarist Uffe Steen. Later Steen steps out with memorable solo, and there's even a brief bit of vocalise. "Bashtag" features call and response from clarinetist Michael Bladt and bandoneonist Christian Gerber; Gerber also duets with vocalist Julie Huetland on "Crying Wine." Cellist Maria Edlund provides counterpoint on "Behavior Modification," both strings playing over an insistent ostinato from Jefsen.

"Benefit Of Waiting" shows how effective Jefsen's "bass percussion" can be, as he turns in a convincing conga imitation during keyboardist Hans Esbjerg's solo (along with swinging walking bass). He does it again on the aptly titled "Wood And Salsa." "Condash" is another track with a full band sound. Bladt's saxophone takes the lead (as well as a fine solo), with Lundt's drums providing a true rhythm section feel—nice bit of keyboard accompaniment from the leader as well. The title tune has a haunting theme, Jefsen's bass doubled by Oskar Hougaard Jefson's vocalise. "Bass Meets Saw" is the only tune with no other musicians, and is exactly what the title says. In this case it's a musical saw, not the sound of a double bass being cut in half (something I would not put past Jefsen's occasionally puckish sense of humor).

A diverse and often fun album, and a splendid showcase for Jefsen's composing, bass playing, and "other weird stuff..." (as the credits would have it). Highly recommended to double bass fans, but there's plenty here for any contemporary jazz lover.

Track Listing: How You Like Your Egg; Bashtag; One End to Another; Behavior Modification; Benefit of Waiting; Conbash; Crying Wine; Amygdala; A Secret Sigh; Bass Meets Saw; Wood and Salsa; Multistep.

Personnel: Jens Jefsen: double basses -pizzicato and arco, keys, wine glasses, saw, shaker, vocals (1), hand percussion on bass, handclaps, drumsticks, foot stomps and other weird stuff...; Christian Gerber, bandoneon (2,7); Hans Esbjerg, keyboard (5,9); Jakob Buchanan, flugelhorn (8); Jullie Hjetland vocals (3,7,12); Maria Edlund, cello (4); Michael Bladt clarinet, alto flute, tenor saxophone (2,6); Morten Lund, drums and percussion (1,6), vocals (1); Oskar Hougaard Jefsen, vocals (9); Uffe Steen, guitars (1,11).

Title: A Secret Sigh | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Gateway Music


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