What does it mean to be 'Followed by Thirteen'? It immediately conjures pictures of some cold war spy thrillerOrson Welles in Greene's "The Third Man," Matt Damon in the Bourne films maybe, as the protagonist is followed by shadowy agents through decaying European cities in defence of unspecified freedoms. Good though it is, it seems unlikely that Henrik Jensen
's splendid new album of modern jazz could be construed by our governments as a threat to our comfortable western liberal democratic existence. True it does value the collective over the individual, but excellent opening track "The Dutch Daneman" provides enough solo space for the ever impressive Andre Canniere
's trumpet or indeed the rippling piano of Esbjen Tjalve
to suggest that jazz can accommodate a mixed economy which rewards both collective cohesion and individual creativity without the need for state surveillance.
The collective cohesion comes from the six years that the band have played together since their 2010 formation. Jensen and Tjalve had previously met in Copenhagen, but later studied together at London's prestigious Royal Academy of Music and individually have impressive CVs from work within jazz and more widely. Canniere should be familiar either from his solo albums, that included 2013's excellent Coalescence
, or indeed his work with the likes of Darcy James Argue
, Becca Stevens
and Maria Schneider
. Drummer Antonio Fusco
was a new name to me but the inventiveness of his work here suggests that he is more than deserving of his place in what feels an even partnership.
The overall feel of the collection exemplified by the aforementioned "The Dutch Daneman" is of a Nordic shading having been given to the great 1960s Miles Davis Quintetimagine Mr Davis recording for ECM around the time of Filles de Killimanjaro
say. "London-Berlin" suggests a further reference in the younger Erik Truffaz, before his experimentation with hip hop and world music textures, its slightly askew melodic theme recalling the early 1970s high water mark for jazz rock fusion when the likes of Herbie Hancock and Eddie Henderson maintained some measure of control over the macho histrionics that were to follow.
There is also a strand of romanticism that runs through the album, take the interaction between Jensen and Tjalve during their respective solos on "Riccardo's Room" for example, and the Blackwater
of the album title being the river by which Jensen proposed to his wife to be. Quite what Jensen's betrothed will have made of his additional sleevenote observation that there had been a Viking invasion at the same spot more than a thousand years previously is perhaps best left to speculation, but we must hope that his ability to record a third album will not be impaired. Jensen and Tjalve also seem to slow time on the track "The Unready" where they reach the level of interaction that shows great mutual understanding and respect built up over many years. Closing track "Cravings" ends on a more upbeat noteCanniere's breezy trumpet line and solo drawing a response in kind from Tjalve that concludes proceedings nicely.
Should 'Followed by Thirteen' reflect the artist's anxiety at his fanbase or social media following Blackwater
will hopefully do much to redress the balance. Mr Jensen has at the time of writing over six hundred twitter followersdoubtless a touch disappointing for a man of his talents but perfectly respectable nonetheless. Blackwater
is a great album, perhaps not the sort of record that wins guest slots on mainstream Saturday night TV, but hopefully enough to get the band noticed and some well-deserved recognition for their work. Warmly recommended.