As I listened to Swedish trumpeter Peter Asplund's quartet on As Knights Concur, I was reminded of another trumpeter somewhat closer to home. Whether consciously or not, Asplund channels Miles Davis in his "transitional" phase shortly before Davis passed through the esoteric "door of fusion" into the sleep-inducing twilight zone that marked his later years as a jazz icon.
Indeed, one of Asplund's three original compositions, "Wonderyear," is reminiscent of Davis' "Milestones." And there's a palpable Davis slant to his playing, open or muted, on almost every number. The standard "My Funny Valentine" is associated with Miles (and Chet Baker), and here as elsewhere, the Swede awakens echoes of the Davis style, a brooding, vibrato-less blend of staccato notes whose minimalist temperament is designed to elicit a strong emotional response. The standard "On Green Dolphin Street," another Davis staple, is more upbeat than Miles' version, and Asplund plays open, not muted.
Time was when most albums opened with an up-tempo number, but that's hardly the case nowadays. Asplund's quartet starts the ball rolling with not one but two ballads, the trumpeter's "In a Pensive Place" and Henry Mancini / Johnny Mercer's "Days of Wine and Roses." The first minute of Cole Porter's "I Love You" is claimed by bassist Hans Andersson and drummer Johan Lofcrantz Ramsay, while pianist Jacob Karlzon isn't heard from until the two and a half minute mark, following a muted statement by Asplund that barely grazes the melody. Rounding out the session are Asplund's "The Prowlers" and Bobby Hebb's "Sunny."
As an exercise in group interplay, the album works quite well, albeit without an abundance of passion or adrenaline. Asplund is a first-rate trumpeter, and his colleagues are seasoned pros who know how to listen well and react. Those who are fond of "pre-fusion" Miles Davis may find this session eerily familiar but nonetheless rewarding.
In a Pensive Place; Days of Wine and Roses; I Love You; Wonderyear; My Funny Valentine; The Prowlers; Sunny; On Green Dolphin Street.
Peter Asplund: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jacob Karlzon: piano; Hans Andersson: bass; Johan Lofcrantz Ramsay: drums.
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