One appraisal that can be rendered without a moment's pause is that guitarist Tim Langedijk, bassist Udo Pannekeet and drummer Hans Van Oosterhout from The Netherlands are splendid musicians. When the trio decide to adopt a harmonious and plain-spoken groove, as is most often the case on Acenja, the album is delightful to hear and appreciate. There are, luckily, only a couple of departures from established protocol, one of which ("The Woods") the trio has chosen as its opening number. Once past that, the music becomes far more melodic and accessible.
Langedijk, the group's nominal leader, wrote every song save one, J.J. Cale's shadowy "After Midnight." He and Pannekeet shoulder most of the solos, such as they are, as much of the improvisation arises so naturally from the group interaction that it seems an inseparable part of the whole cloth. Van Oosterhout, for his part, sets a rhythmic compass that is both prismatic and precise. Langedijk's "Dedication" manifests a Caribbean-like vibe, while "Sam's Dollhouse" has a definite country-and-western ambiance, with Langedijk sounding more like Chet Atkins or Les Paul than, say, Wes Montgomery. He's decidedly more modern and hip on the jazzier "Benny's Bubble" and "Blue Birdy," which are sandwiched around "Religion," a level-headed anthem whose prefatory vocal refrain could have been borrowed from a time-worn gospel radio program.
"More," which precedes "Sam's Dollhouse," is another fast-paced swinger, while "Acenja," which follows, is a tranquil ballad whose luminous melody fashions an ungainly bridge to the high-strung finale, "We're Getting Close." This is a blue-chip trio, performing music that is for the most part sunny and agreeable with seldom a trace of Scandinavian frost. In other words, a commendable performance from almost every angle. For maximum pleasure, however, it may be a good idea to start the listening experience at Track 2 and visit Track 1 later.
The Woods; Benny’s Bubble; Religion; Blue Birdy; After Midnight; Dedication; More; Sam’s Dollhouse; Acenja; We’re Getting Close.
Tim Langedijk: guitar; Udo Pannekeet: bass; Hans van Oosterhout: drums.
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