Denada, an album of big band compositions by the talented Norwegian trombonist/composer Helge Sunde, is amazingly complex and original music that brings to mind the work of Maria Schneider. In fact, had I encountered this album in a blindfold test, I would have said immediately that it was a new album by Schneider.
Sunde's music examines themes seldom explored by jazz. On the opening piece, "IO," for instance, the pontillistic opening salvos gradually give way to a swinging counterpoint. This piece is followed by the hauntingly beautiful "Requiscat in Pace," a ballad featuring Schneider-like dense chords and a tremendous, mournful solo by tenor saxophonist Atle Nymo.
The title piece is a hard-driving composition with a Latin underbeat, featuring excellent solos by Petter Wettre (alto) and Borge Are Halvorsen (baritone). Sunde explores Norwegian folk music on "Om Kvelden" ("At Dawn") and follows this with "Small Landscape," a tour de force for percussionist Marilyn Mazur.
Denada is so good that it deserves to be experienced in toto. The various compositions have an overarching flow that gives them a conceptual unity which one seldom encounters in jazz. Helge Sunde and his band have produced an album that is both thought-provoking and forward-looking, but never loses its will to swing. Denada is by far one of the best albums of big band jazz of the last decade.
All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.
You Can Help
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.