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Soren Moller: Christian X Variations

Dan Bilawsky By

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While Danish-born pianist Soren Moller and American saxophonist Dick Oatts—of Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz orchestra fame—have had an ongoing partnership on record, the seeds of this union have finally reached full bloom with Christian X Variations. The music on this recording, written to honor the Danish King who made significant efforts to protect Jews from deportation and discrimination during World War II, is easily the most ambitious and powerful that Moller has ever created.

Whether veering into menacing territory with his killer quartet ("Kvartet I") or creating intense aural ambrosia by mixing the Kirin Winds with the core group, Moller's music is never short of mesmerizing. Oatts smolders, zig-zags with puckish delight and pours his soul into the music at every moment, leaving nothing unsaid. Drummer Henry Cole brings intensity to the music, and an ability to make instantaneous, organic adjustments at every turn, and bassist Josh Ginsburg deserves the designation of storyteller over soloist, for his thoughtful contributions.

While Moller's piano work delivers big on passion and sets the tone for each piece, the greatest accolades should be reserved for his writing. Each of the three nonet numbers allows for different glimpses into Moller's mind. He sets up the winds with their own mid-track asides, which cover rhythmic soli statements and present comments that fuse his own musical ideals with those of Prokofiev, Stravinsky, and Philip Glass, and brings them together to bolster the proceedings at the end on "Nonet I."

The use of each member of the Kirin Winds is a separate cog in a beautifully harmonious wheel that moves beneath Oatts on "Nonet II," and he sets up a more exotic outlook with the winds as "Nonet III" unfolds. Of the two quartet pieces, "Kvartet II" is the clear winner on the excitement front. Moller creates a hard-driving, deeply bracing swing structure that would hold equal appeal to fans of late '60s and early '70s firebrands, McCoy Tyner enthusiasts, and those with more modern leaning ears.

With Christian X Variations, Soren Moller has created what is, thus far, the defining statement in his discography, and a record that's as close to perfect as it gets.

Track Listing: Nonet I; Kvartet I; Nonet II; Kvartet II; Nonet III.

Personnel: Soren Moller: piano; Dick Oatts: saxophones; Josh Ginsburg: bass; Henry Cole: drums; Jorunn Solloes: flute; Sai Kai: oboe; Nicolai Eghorst: clarinet; Jeppe Rasmussen: horn; Catarina Zeh: bassoon.

Title: Christian X Variations | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Audial Records

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