The 25-30 piece Danish big band Blood Sweat Drums + Bass isn't your typical big band. The juggernaut steered by Jens Christian "Chappe" Jensen meshes traditional jazz sections of trumpet, saxophone and trombone with electronics and electric guitar, and has incorporated DJs and rappers on occasion. And, as the name intimates, a pulsating rhythm section comprising two drummers and a percussionist and two bassists inject wicked grooves into the brew. In the Spirit of... (Blood Sweat Media, 2014) is a live recording featuring Palle Mikkelborg and Dave Liebman which remoulds Mikkelborg's Miles Davis tribute AURAcomposed in 1984into a five-part suite. In addition, ITSO presents BSD+B's no less impressive Arabic-influenced charts.
The twenty two-minute suite "In the Spirit of..." is a kaleidoscopic affair, running from the pastel lyricism of Mikkelberg and Liebman's opening duet to the full force of the BSD+B's roar. Brass and reeds trade back and forth over lithe, reggae-tinged grooves as Liebman and Mikkelberg improvise. Hypnotic brass pulses dominate while the rhythm section sits out. Muted trumpet, ambient electronics and guitar combine in meditative waves. Alongside the spirit of Davis ride those of Gil Evans and Olivier Messiaen in a strikingly nuanced chart. The final segment, "The Gull and the Dark Lake" played by the Who Killed Bambi string quartet brings lulling, lyrical closure to the episodic journey.
The three remaining three tracks continue a musical saga that began when Jensen travelled to Syria in 2010 -a sojourn that inspired On The Road to Damascus (Blood Sweat Media, 2012). The bloody civil war that has torn Syria apart in recent years is allured to in the title of "Prayer for Syria," but ruminative intro apartfeaturing Moslem Rahal on ney flutethis is no keening Arabian lament; instead, ambient soundscapes, simmering bass and percolating percussion underpin quite urbane textures and sweeping orchestral motifs. The lovely strings, flute and bass clarinet closing passage is lyrical and, in avoiding heart-string-tugging clichés, somehow hopeful.
The power of BSD+Bass is harnessed to the full on the pulsating "Odd Poetry," though it's Jensen's vivid manipulation of the vast dynamics at his disposal that really captivates: large sections of the ensemble drop out; vocals are accentuated; waves of sounds gradually build then dissipate; churning rock rhythms and riffing brass muscle in, and throughout, the lyrical and the visceral shadow dance. "On The Road to Alhambra" juxtaposes Arabic colorsoud, flute, percussion and stringswith bold brass punctuation and Nikolai Schneider's urgent tenor saxophone. Flute and oud flirt hypnotically on darkly lush orchestral wings before trumpet negotiates the final stretch.
The accompanying DVD features live material and on-the-road documentary-type footage. At almost two and a half hours in total this is no mere stocking filler either. Mikkelborg's "In The Spirit Of..." suite and "Prayer for Syria" from the CD are included but otherwise the remaining material is culled from other live performances stretching over a seven year period from 2007.
The half-hour road movie "BSD+Bass at Bremen" follows the band from the bus to the stage at Jazzahead! 2014 and gives some insight into the inner mechanics of the big band and the challenges of squeezing the full ensemble onto stages. "The musicians in the rhythm section are not what you would call traditional jazz musicians," says bassist Rune Werner Christensen. "We have our roots in other kinds of music and that helps pulling the music in different directions."
From the Ellingtonian-influenced "Oud Indigo" and the stunning Arabic tone-poem "I Return to Damascus"based on the poetry of Nizar Quabbanito more contemporary rhythmic streams and textures drawing from pop and rock, the music of DSB+ Bass collated here certainly draws from multiple wells. Yet what is most striking is that despite the musical mutations over the yearsand this DVD covers only half of its fifteen-year adventurea clearly identifiable band sound is a constant. It's a complex sound that embraces both the individual voices as well as the multiple collectives within the big band.
In The Spirit Of... is drum and bass heavy to be sure, yet BSD+Bass' percussive force and the undulating rhythmic grooves are as much embedded in the full, stirring ensemble voice. And, if it doesn't quite draw blood, it sure as hell raises a satisfying sweat.
CD: In the Spirit of....; Prayer for Syria; Odd Poetry; On the
Road to Alhambra.
DVD: A. Aura excerpts: Intro, Aura (Yellow, Blue, Violet), The
Gull; B. BSD+B at JazzAhead Bremen 2014 - Roadmovie by Ida Marie
Gedbjerg Sørensen; C. BSD+B at JazzAhead Bremen 2014, the
Concert; D. Prayer for Syria; E. Oud Indigo; F. I Return to
Damascus; G. The Malinesian Stone glows in the subtle Fire; H. The
Beautiful Grey; I. Skyggesværmer; J. Lykkestrejf; Roskilde 2007
Palle Mikkelborg: trumpet, flugelhorn (1, A, G, H); David Liebman:
soprano saxophone & wooden flute (1, A); Helen Davies Mikkelborg:
harp (G, H); Moslem Rahal: ney-flute (2, 3, 4, B, C, E, F); Maher
Mahmoud: oud (1, A, B, C); Bilal Irshed: oud (3, 4); Essam Rafea:
oud (E, F); Jørgen Munkeby: guitar, saxophone (J, K); Gunhild
Overegseth: vocals (1, 2, A, B, C, D, F, k); Turid Guldin: vocals
(1, 2, A, D, I, K); Anna Brøndsted H: vocals; Ole Visby: reeds (1,
2, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K); Julie Kjær: reeds (1, 2, 3,
4, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K); Nikolai Schneider: reeds (1,
2, 3, 4, A, B, C, D, G, H, I, J, K); Jacob Danielsen: reeds (1, 2,
3, 4, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K); Harald Langåsdalen: reeds
(1, 2, 3, 4, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K); Mette Rasmussen:
reeds (1, 2, 3, 4, A, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K); Samuel Hejslet:
reeds (E, F); Søren ”Phille” Bærbak: trumpet (1, 2, A, B, C, D, E,
F , I, J, K); Bent Hjort: trumpet (1, 2, 3, 4, A, B, C, D, E, F,
G, H, I, J, K); Hans Christian Ilskov Erbs: trumpet (3, 4, E, F,
G, H, I, J, K); Rene Damsbak: trumpet (1, 2, 3, 4, A, B, C, D, G,
H, I, J, K); Frank Brodahl: trumpet (G, H); Nicholai Andersen:
trumpet (E, F); Anders Farstad: trumpet (3, 4); Ulrik Kofoed: horn
(1, 2, 3, 4, A, B, C, D); Jens Overby: trombone (1, 2, 3, 4, A, B,
C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K); Jens Kristian Bang: trombone (E, F, G,
H, I, J, K); Kirstine Kjærulff Ravn: trombone (1, 2, 3, 4, A, D,
E, F, G, H, I, J, K); Anders Østergaard Frandsen: trombone (1, 2,
3, 4, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H); Lars Peder Brinks Sørensen:
trombone (1, 2, A, B, C, D); Lisa Katharina Stick: trombone (3,
4); Frank Herbsleb: trombone (I, J, K); Jonas Lindh: trombone (B,
C); Søren Lyngsø Knudsen: electronics (1, 2, 3, 4, A, B, C, D
(Visuals G, H); Sofus Forsberg: electronics (E, F, G, H); Wayne
Siegel: electronics (G, H); Kasper Falkenberg: guitar (1, 2, 3, 4,
A, B, C, D, E, F, I, J, K); Jens Christian Kwella: guitar (I, J,
K); Søren Bigum: guitar (G, H); Kasper Bjerg: keyboard (1, 2, 3,
4, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K); Aske Bode: keyboard (1, 2, 3,
4, A, D, G, H, I, J, K); Sisse "Moster Phonque" Foged Hyllested:
bass (1, 2, 3, 4, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K); Rune Werner
Christensen: bass, synthszier & pedal Steel (1, 2, 3, 4, A, B, C,
D, E, F, G, H, J, K); Thomas Sejthen: bass (I); Espen Laub von
Lillienskjold: drums (3, 4, E, F, G, H, I, J, K); Jais Poulsen:
drums (1, 2, 3, 4, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K); Peter Lund
Paulsen: drums (1, 2, A, B, C, D); Magnus Lindegaard Jochumsen:
percussion (B C, G, H, I, J, K); Kristine Bjørg Markussen:
percussion (1, 2, A, D); Habib Meftah Boucheri: percussion (3, 4);
Simon Alsing Busk: percussion (E, F); "Who Killed Bambi" string
section: Louise Drengsgaard, Cæcilie Balling, Mette Dahl
Kristensen, Marta Marie Petri (1, 2, 3, 4, A, D); Strings: Jakob
Rosendahl Povlsen, Anna Jalving, Mikkel Schreiber, Oda Mathilde
Holstad Dyrnes (B, C); Jens Christian "Chappe" Jensen: composer &
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