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Lars Danielsson: Liberetto

John Kelman By

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With Tarantella (ACT, 2009)—his last studio recording excluding the career-spanning Signature Edition 3 (ACT, 2010) compilation— Lars Danielsson raised the bar on a string of recordings demonstrating increased evolution on all fronts. If Liberetto doesn't exhibit the same degree of incremental stylistic growth that Tarantella did over previous albums including Pasodoble (ACT, 2007) and Mélange Bleu (ACT, 2007), it does represent its own milestone, one where Danielsson's astute choice of players becomes as important as the music they play.

Liberetto expands on Tarantella's masterful mix of elegant lyricism, unerring groove and Euro-centric classicism. While the configuration of his group is the same—a piano/guitar/bass/drums quartet occasionally augmented with trumpet—Danielsson opts for an almost entirely new ensemble, with only John Parricelli returning, and it's a great choice. The British guitarist—largely a session player who's also rubbed shoulders with artists including trumpeter Kenny Wheeler and saxophonist Andy Sheppard—plays largely a supportive role, primarily on nylon-stringed guitar, and delivers a brief but impressive solo on Danielsson's "Driven to Daylight," a track propelled forward by the bassist's robust tone and percussive approach.

Parricelli is essential to Danielsson's "Orange Market," which begins gently—its winding melody doubled by the guitarist and Armenian pianist Tigran Hamasyan (here going by his first name only), replacing Tarantella's Leszek Możdżer—but gradually picks up steam as a theme-driven bass solo leads to Tigran pushing into territory familiar for fans of pianist Esbjorn Svensson's e.s.t. trio. There's an even more direct connection, with e.s.t.'s Magnus Ostrom assuming the drum chair after Tarantella's Eric Harland. Not that Tigran plays anything like the late Swedish pianist—nor does Danielsson sound anything like e.s.t.'s Dan Berglund. But as the song builds to Liberetto's most powerful peak, the trio of Tigran, Danielsson and Öström works a repetitive series of changes with the same kind of relentless drive and exhilarating climactic build.

Aside from four pieces written/co-written/arranged by Tigran, the bulk of Liberetto comes from Danielsson's pen, the pianist's opening "Yerevan" suggesting an electro-acoustic confluence not heard since Mélange Bleu, featuring trumpeter Arve Henriksen's harmonized trumpet and Parricelli's in-the-weeds guitar swells. Still, what most distinguishes Liberetto's largely acoustic set from recent predecessors is its inherent intensity, even in its quietest moments. While the title track and, in particular, the sing-song approach to "Ahdes Theme" remain as gentle and painfully beautiful as some of the bassist's best writing, the interaction and commitment amongst this particular group of musicians is deeper, more immediate and, in some cases, more flat-out visceral than anything that's come before.

Danielsson's had some great groups in the past, but with his newfound musical soul mate Tigran—the two meeting a scant week or two before the recording—this one demands the opportunity to discover where longevity might lead. An exceptional and compelling debut for Danielsson's new lineup, what Liberetto delivers is ultimately but a promise of greater things to come—hopefully a beginning, and not an ending.

Track Listing: Yerevan; Liberetto; Day One; Orange Market; Hymnen; Svensk Låt; Hov arek sarer djan; Party on the Planet; Tystnaden; Ahdes Theme; Driven to Daylight; Blå Ängar.

Personnel: Lars Danielsson: bass, cello, Wurlitzer piano (8); Tigran: piano, vocals (7); John Parricelli: guitar; Arve Henriken: trumpet; Magnus Öström: drums, percussion.

Title: Liberetto | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: ACT Music


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