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Hilmar Jensson: Ditty Blei

Mark Corroto By

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Icelandic guitarist Hilmar Jensson is back. This time it’s personal.

Sorry, I’ve been watching movie trailers again. Anyway, this one is in motion just the same. Jensson follows up his 2002 disc Tyft with his unique extended guitar antics on Ditty Blei. Where his previous outing favored improvisation over melody, this disc showcases a bit more structure and groove.

Jensson adds bassist Trevor Dunn and trumpeter Herb Robertson to his Tyft lineup of Andrew D’Angelo and Jim Black and features his compositional skills. Like his work in Jim Black’s AlasNoAxis, Jensson’s playing will never be confused with the usual jazz guitar. He simply refuses to allow anyone to pigeonhole his playing. He does, however, write jazz songs—not “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” so much as “He’s Got Himself Under My Skin.” Jensson prefers the prepared guitar with screws, fans, sticks, and bows to Django’s burnt finger playing. And while his band mates play "straight," these aren’t exactly the kind of musicians who are stuck "in the tradition."

Jim Black runs with fellow new thing players Tim Berne, Chris Speed, and Satoko Fujii. Andrew D’Angelo sometimes plays his horn while laying on his back for Matt Wilson, and Trevor Dunn has rocked out with Mr. Bungle and kept time for John Zorn and Junk Genius. Trumpeter Herb Robertson, a journeyman free jazz trumpeter, plays well with Tim Berne and of late with the Italian jazz avant-garde.

Fans of Tim Berne’s projects will enjoy this date. Jensson favors odd meters and a bit of noise. And while D’Angelo and Robertson can take you out, they are also disciplined musicians. On “Everything Is Temporary,” the airy opening gives way to a progressive march by Jensson’s band. His blues guitar turns into an extended effects machine that is easily consumed. This is not a relaxed affair. Jensson employs Jim Black to keep things a bit off-kilter. The rocked out lines of “Mayla Mayla” are spun around Robertson's echoed trumpet and D’Angelo’s blurting optimism.

When he picks up his acoustic guitar, Jensson reels in the effects for a bit of beauty. “Correct Me If I’m Right” captures a bit of Americana; the short “Davu” is also a simple chamber piece of beauty. Jensson mixes the harsh with the elegant for another valued outing.


Track Listing: Letta; Larf; Mayla, Mayla; Correct Me If I

Personnel: Hilmar Jensson - Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar; Jim Black - Drums; Andrew D

Title: Ditty Blei | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Songlines Recordings


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