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Mikkel Ploug & Mark Turner: Faroe

Dan Bilawsky By

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While tenor saxophone heavy Mark Turner has toured with guitarist Mikkel Ploug's quartet for approximately a decade, the unique musical alliance developed between this pair has never before received such a high degree of attention. With Faroe, Ploug presents thirteen original compositions written or rearranged specifically to telescope their bond(s), explore the very essence of the melodic-harmonic communion, and artfully merge the precomposed and the improvised.

Opening with the title track, a number that finds Turner's matte-finish melodies riding over Ploug's steady yet morphing streams, this duo immediately establishes a fine line between patience and passion. Then comes "Neukölln," an older composition given a new lease on life in Turner's melodic tangents and Ploug's responsive undercurrents. It's a work that shares emotional characteristics with its precursor but distinguishes itself through its urgency and a less measurable sense of momentum.

As the album moves forward and follows the aforementioned mission-oriented course(s), one absorbing narrative after another comes into view. "The Red Album" establishes its calm and collected demeanor through Ploug's acoustic introduction(s), later taking a turn toward the wistful; "Highland" brings an eerie and unsettled idealism into focus, using a lack of ballast to its advantage; the aptly named "Warmth" capitalizes on Turner's brilliant spontaneity, as the saxophonist only first encountered this mysterious charmer on the day of the recording session; and "Sailing" catches wind early on, gliding along calm waters and drawing on conversational currents.

"Ambiguity" sits at Faroe's midpoint, toying with its titular ideal without abandoning a sense of steadiness and structure, and the album's second half opens with a true outlier in the form of the breezy, bossa-esque "Como." The majority of the numbers that remain shift toward a more studied form of exploration and development: The dignified "Wagner" works with a cadence that the iconic German composer often utilized, "Steps" grows from a leaping exercise in sixths, the calmly delivered "Celeste" offers myriad emotions while tapping into Olivier Messiaen's methods, and the steadily strumming "Safari" takes a trip to African locales.

This pair's final statement—the gently waltzing "Sea Minor"—signals a change in tack, but their collective temperament remains unaltered as they say their goodbyes. Faroe stands as a testament to Mikkel Ploug's prowess with the pen, the art of the duo, and the relationship formed between this Danish guitarist and one of jazz's most celebrated saxophonists. It's a quiet stunner.

Track Listing: Faroe; Neukölln; The Red Album; Highland; Warmth; Sailing; Ambiguity; Como; Wagner; Steps; Celeste; Safari; Sea Minor.

Personnel: Mikkel Ploug: acoustic guitar, electric guitar; Mark Turner: tenor saxophone.

Title: Faroe | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records

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