From its inception more than a century ago, jazz has taken a long, strange and twisted journey. From folk-art to more avant-garde adventures, jazz has never sat in the same place for too long, like a sort of free spirit in search of the infinite. Throughout that journey, at least since the 1940's, a time when Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Rollins and other be-boppers were having a major impact on a new generation of musicians, Europe has also played its own important role in shaping the art form.
So it should come as no surprise that European jazz has its own distinct style and flavour. And continuing in that tradition is multi-instrumentalist Max Zenger, a saxophonist/bass clarinetist from Finland, whose latest album Chapter 2, recorded with the Maxxxtet quartet, is at once both earthy and sophisticated in equal measure.
Highlights on Chapter 2 are many and varied. Opener "Varanus Priscus" is played with a relaxed beauty, reminiscent of early Soft Machine, where Zenger's alto-saxophone provides the lattice-work around which other members Tomi Nikku (trumpet) Teemu Åkerblom (bass) and Joonas Leppänen (drums) add their own unique colours and textures.
Some tracks, such as "Year of the Rooster" and "Vortex" at times display elements of free-jazzunderpinned by a strong sense of melodic inventionthat takes the listener on a varied, unpredictable journey. "Tresteg" invokes the luscious tones of John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy, while the hushed dynamics of "Tragikomik" exert more subtle charms. The swinging "Pristine" and the delicately crafted, more nuanced "Z.E.N.," which rounds out a strong set, are further fine examples of the quartet's intuitive interplay.
Released on the independent Eclipse Music label Chapter 2 is an accomplished, cerebrally nourishing piece of work.
Varanus Priscus; Year of the Rooster; Vortex; Tresteg; Tragikomik; Pristine; Z.E.N.
Max Zenger: alto saxophone, bass clarinet; Tomi Nikku: trumpet; Teemu Åkerblom:
bass; Joonas Leppänen: drums.
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