Lars Danielsson: Libera Me

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
When the bonus track on an album is the most adventurous piece, you know there might be trouble. And that's not to say that bassist Lars Danielsson's latest album, Libera Me , is bad; it isn't. In a year where we've seen other artists mesh jazz improvisation with an orchestra, most notably pianist Steve Kuhn with Promises Kept (ECM) and Charlie Mariano with Not Quite a Ballad (Intuition), it has come to pass that these two disparate concepts—the obvious demand for strict structure for the orchestra with the more extemporaneous demands of jazz—can work, and work quite well. But while Danielsson is a fine bassist with a robust sound and strongly lyrical bent, his concept for placing himself in the midst of a lush orchestra straddles the fence between the dramatic and the melodramatic, the sweet and the saccharine, occasionally slipping onto the wrong side.

With guests including Norwegians Nils Petter Molvaer on trumpet, Jon Christensen on drums, and Jan Bang on samples, along with saxophonist David Liebman, the ingredients are all there for a fine recording. And some tracks work better than others. The opening track, "Asta," melds abstraction with a more direct melodicism. "Suffering" brings to mind some of the orchestral work on guitarist Pat Metheny's Secret Story , and Danielsson's folk-like bass melody is attractive in a melancholy way. But other tracks, including the title track and "Cornelia," as rich and beautiful as they are, tend to blend together into something more monotonous.

The best tracks on the record are those where Danielsson is left alone with Christensen. "The Teacher" is a folksy piece that features Christensen at his elastic best, and Danielsson's reading of Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" is equally vivid. These two tracks prove, in fact, that less is definitely more, as they allow Danielsson and Christensen to speak volumes within a simpler context.

And the bonus track, "Asnah," demonstrates what this record could have been had the orchestra been used either more sparingly. Starting with simple drums and percussion supporting Danielsson's searching cello; Bang's samples gradually and subtly enter, as does Caecilie Norby's voice, more effective here than on the syrupy easy-listening vocal track "Newborn Broken." Molvaer, using a more pure organic tone than on his own recordings, is equally adept at developing the more ambient soundscape of the track. And the orchestra is back in the mix, creating a simple but lush backdrop that is more about texture and landscape.

This SACD hybrid recording was beautifully crafted at Oslo's Rainbow Studio with engineer Jan Erik Kongshaug, home and technician behind so many classic ECM recordings. While Libera Me is unquestionably a well-crafted album for those who want to simply sit back and be enveloped by something that doesn't confront or challenge, it is in the odd man out tracks—"The Teacher," "Both Sides Now," and especially "Asnah"—where we hear what this album could have been and, perhaps, should have been. Hopefully they are harbingers of what Danielsson has in store next time around.

Track Listing: Asta; Suffering; The Teacher; Newborn Broken; Libera Me; Shimmering; Granada; Both Sides Now; Forever You; Bird Through the Wall; Cornelia; Bonus Track: Asnah

Personnel: Lars Danielsson (acoustic bass, cello, piano, guitar), Jon Christensen (drums, percussion), Nils Petter Molvaer (trumpet), Xavier Desandre Navarre (percussion), David Liebman (soprano saxophone), Anders KJellberg (cymbals), Jan Bagn (samples), Carsten Dahl (piano), Tobias Sjogren (guitar), DR Danish Radio Concert Orchestra, conducted by Frans Rasmussen
Special guest: Caecilie Norby (vocals on "Newborn Broken")
On "Asnah" only: Lars Danielsson (cello, samples), Jon Christensen (drums), Nils Petter Movlaer (trumpet), Caecilie Norby (voices), Jan Bang (samples), Xavier Desandre Navarre (percussion), DR Danish Radio Concert Orchestra

Title: Libera Me | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: ACT Music


comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Déjà Vu CD/LP/Track Review Déjà Vu
by Troy Dostert
Published: September 20, 2017
Read Woody Guthrie - The Tribute Concerts CD/LP/Track Review Woody Guthrie - The Tribute Concerts
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: September 20, 2017
Read Two in a Box CD/LP/Track Review Two in a Box
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 20, 2017
Read Discussions CD/LP/Track Review Discussions
by Glenn Astarita
Published: September 20, 2017
Read Just Friends: Live at the Village Vanguard CD/LP/Track Review Just Friends: Live at the Village Vanguard
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: September 19, 2017
Read Introducing the Simon Eskildsen Trio CD/LP/Track Review Introducing the Simon Eskildsen Trio
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: September 19, 2017
Read "June" CD/LP/Track Review June
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 22, 2017
Read "The Long Road" CD/LP/Track Review The Long Road
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 30, 2016
Read "Inspirations (featuring Matthew Halsall)" CD/LP/Track Review Inspirations (featuring Matthew Halsall)
by Phil Barnes
Published: June 26, 2017
Read "Fake It Until You Make It" CD/LP/Track Review Fake It Until You Make It
by Jack Bowers
Published: November 17, 2016
Read "Transparent Water" CD/LP/Track Review Transparent Water
by Roger Farbey
Published: December 29, 2016
Read "Afro-Caribbean Mixtape" CD/LP/Track Review Afro-Caribbean Mixtape
by Mark F. Turner
Published: June 27, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.