Norway, the land of fjords, reindeer, and Vikings has presented us with an album of cerebral grace. Frøy Aagre Offbeat's debut album Katalyze is a beautifully recorded and musically diverse offering. Consisting of Aagre on saxophone, Andreas Ulvo Langnes on piano, Roger Williamsen on double bass, and Freddy Augdal on drums, the band plays with an expansive sweep, simulating the sound of a larger ensemble.
Aagre, who composed Katalyze 's eight tracks, often recalls Wayne Shorter, particularly on soprano, where each note seems to strain for some elusive light of epiphany. The pithiness of Shorter can be detected too in her airy statements on the engaging "Norwegian Mountain" while Williamsen and Augdal shamble along with charm and Langnes drops atmospheric piano clanks.
Elsewhere, "Beatitude" arrives like some dimly remembered melody of rueful wit and tender melancholy. Aagre arranges the song with a deep and rich cello accompaniment by guest Tove Margrethe Erikstad. The track envelops the listener in such a reverie that it is a surprise when it ends right before the four-minute mark. Further compositions and performances in this style would be most welcome.
Above all, Katalyze is a thoughtfully constructed album. The track sequencing artfully shifts moods and tones while complimenting the performances that precede and follow the current song. This care is very evident as well in the way the arrangements serve the compositions. Solos are played so that they may illuminate the songnot out of some robotic sense of necessity. This is an impressive album featuring great discipline, thought, and grace.
Track Listing: Lee Valley; Slow Train; Norwegian Mountains; Frøyish; Beatitude; Thanks Heaven for a Tune in Eleven; Been There; One Day.
Personnel: Frøy Aagre: tenor and soprano saxophones; Andreas Ulvo Langnes: piano; Roger Williamsen: double-bass; Freddy Augdal: drums.