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Sarah Elgeti Quintet: Into The Open

Edward Blanco By

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From the Danish Radio (DR) Big band—directed by such greats as Thad Jones, Bob Brookmeyer and Jim McNeely—to the jazz environment of Copenhagen's Café Montmarte, Denmark has been at the forefront in nurturing and producing some of the finest jazz musicians in Europe and, indeed, the world. Saxophonist/flautist Sarah Elgeti is the latest Danish wonder to emerge on the international stage, astounding critics with Into the Open, by her all-Danish quintet. Elgeti wields her sax like a veteran journeyman, pens her own music, is an educator and as a multi-instrumentalist on this debut, performing on tenor and soprano saxophones, flute and percussion.

The leader pairs with alto and baritone saxophonist Marianne Markmann-Eriksen, creating a saxophone front line that powers the music in an assertive yet stylish manner. The very brief "Home" seems more of a warm-up for Elgeti, the only featured soloist, sounding off on a number many have described as Nordic in nature. Nevertheless, "Bossa Among the Trees" reveals a superb band and the first Elgeti-Markmann-Eriksen saxophone combination on a pulsating bossa-influenced excursion. "Out in the Fields" takes the band to a quieter landscape, maintaining the musical conversation between the saxophonists while highlighting beautiful chords from Christian Bluhme Hansen's nylon string guitar.

The funk is alive and well coming into the open on the gyrating "Downstairs," while "Ringe I Vand" (let it rain) and "Clouds" share common atmospheric textures, showcasing Elgeti on flute. The swinging, hard bop "Blustering Waves" captures excellent play from Ben Besiakov on Fender Rhodes, though it is not the main highlight of the tune. The all-out saxophone assault from the leader and Markmann-Eriksen's husky baritone are the featured voices, augmented by Mikkel Uhrenholdt and Magnus Poulsen's additional alto saxophones.

With the short "Clouds" drifting into more mellow territory, the light and melodic "Angelique" (dedicated to her mother) takes the sensitive balladic route, offering Elgeti an opportunity to strike a warm and tender tone. In stark contrast, the official finale, "Night Moves," provides a very different approach with an improvised avant-garde sound. The album concludes with a fusion-tinged percussive rendition of "Bossa Among the Trees" as a remixed bonus track.

Presenting a variety of styles from bop, bossa and funky blues to straight-ahead and avant-garde, Into the Open is a sparkling debut from the Sarah Elgeti Quintet, a group of unheralded Danish musicians led by the newest saxophone voice to emerge from Denmark's proud jazz scene and culture. Virtually unknown in the United States, with this gem of a recording, Elgeti is poised to take her music into the open embrace of American audiences.

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