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Elsa Nilsson & Jon Cowherd: After Us

Paul Rauch By

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The music of Swedish/American flutist and composer Elsa Nilsson is widely influenced, interconnecting and transcending cultural boundaries from Sweden, to northern Europe, through the heart of American jazz, and stretching south to the sounds of Rio de Janeiro. She willfully takes the leap from one musical outpost to another without compromise, along the way finding interesting and original space to be uniquely herself. This leads to some unconventional aspects of her approach and where the music ultimately travels. She dares to express human emotion as one, tied together as an elemental force. The lines between genres become blurred with intent to express honestly all that draws and ties us together. There is a truth in her music that believes that all folk forms, including jazz, brings a deeper understanding that is the common thread between all of humanity.

Pianist Jon Cowherd was Kentucky born, educated in New Orleans, and eventually settled into the scene in New York City. There he began a long running partnership with drummer/bandleader Brian Blade, with whom he co-founded the Fellowship Band. His stellar piano work and compositional prowess has led to many associations in the jazz, pop and rock worlds.

Together, Nilsson and Cowherd create a broad-based musical landscape that draws from the wellspring of their diverse backgrounds. They have been performing in this intimate duo setting in and around New York City since 2014, exploring the space that it opens up before them. The music on After Us is often playful, as is aptly expressed on the Nilsson composition, "Crimson." Cowherd's lively romp on piano is almost showtune-esque, with Nilsson turning soft, breeze-like tones into gale-forced, powerful rapid-fire runs.

"Same Trees" finds Nilsson on bass flute expressing a gray, reflective mood with a dark, folk-like melody, unfolding into a dynamic solo weaved within Cowherd's spacial harmony. Cowherd's solo conjures visions of the same, surrounding Nilsson's statement with repose and wavering melodic fragments.

What could best be described as music representing elemental forces, "Distant Dawn" has a sound that vibes with those elements. It would be far more descriptive to describe the sound of an early morning breeze, or the distant sounds of seabirds drawn against a canvas of twilight colors and calm than to expound on the qualities of this tune in musical terms.

The lone Cowherd composition, "Baltic," tells a more reflective tale, with its somber, nostalgic melody meandering through a dense harmonic canvas. Nilsson enters the fray with a probing, almost somber solo, exploring deep rich tonality on alto flute. Cowherd's artful piano style, and superb ability to listen and interject poetically, has been gifted to us through his own recordings, most notably with John Patitucci and Bill Frisell on his debut, Mercy (ArtistShare, 2013). His introspective mindset is intuitive, resourceful, drawing his sound with Nilsson's together as one.

After Us must be given a close listen to fully appreciate. One might give any album the same regard, but given the personal emotive-grind chanced upon throughout the recording, that sentiment is somewhat more essential. Nilsson notes that her late father was the first to hear the master of this recording, and was the last thing he heard before his passing. Undoubtedly, this emotion played significantly into her playing and that of Cowherd. The result is captivating, graceful, and highly emotive. The intimacy captured on this session allows for quiet reflection , and meditative repose, all the while summoning a broader sense of celebration and innate sensibility. For Nilsson and Cowherd, it is an arc of humanity contained within 60 minutes of music.

Track Listing: Sames Trees; How To Keep Moving, How To Stay; Distant Dawn; Crimson; With a Smile; Blessings; Practice patience; Baltica; After Us.

Personnel: Elsa Nilsson: flutes; Jon Cowherd: piano.

Title: After Us | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Elsa Nilsson Music

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