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Peter Madsen's Seven Sins Ensemble: Never Bet The Devil Your Head

Dan McClenaghan By

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Pianist Peter Madsen has come up with a novel idea for a jazz record: A Tribute to Edgar Allen Poe (1809-1849), America's founding father of macabre/horror fiction. Bringing together a jazz quartet—piano/bass/drums/trumpet—and a string quartet, Madsen and his Seven Sins Ensemble capture the moods and atmospheres of some of the author's better-known tales on Never Bet The Devil You Head.

Madsen's translation of Poe's most famous poem, "The Raven," sets the stage for the program. The string quartet plays with an energy of high-octane jazz married to adventurous classical stylings. The strings dominate the sound in the beginning, then the jazz guys sneak in, adding a muscular foundation and an appropriately haunting mood supplied by Herbert Walser's muted trumpet.

The close touchstone for this sound seems to be saxophonist Stan Getz's Focus (Verve, 1961), an early and highly successful jazz "with strings" album. Call it pared-down Third Stream.

Each of Madsen's tune comes from an individual Poe tale. The stories are dark stuff for the most part, and so are Madsen's compositions. "Tell Tale Heart" sounds like doom, like something that could thrive in a heavy metal rendition—it's not stylistically that far from it. "A Dream Within A Dream" is a foreboding, slinking-in-the-dark-hallway piece of work. On the other hand, "The Cask of Amontillado" exudes light-stepping whimsey, like the soundtrack to a Pink Panther cartoon. Add to the mix on the tune some cool Ellingtonian, jungle cat growling from Walser to lighten the mood, followed by Madsen's crisp, astringent, Ellingtonian piano.

Never Bet The Devil Your Head, inspired by Edgar Allen Poe, takes the jazz with strings genre into scary and deeply emotional territory.

Track Listing: The Raven; A Dream Within A Dream; The Tell-Tale Heart; The Cask Of Amontillado; The Sphinx; Never Bet The Devil Your Head; The Fall Of The House Of Usher; Mesmeric Revelation; The Masque Of The Red Death; A Descent Into The Maelström.

Personnel: Peter Madsen: piano; Herbert Walser: trumpet; Aleksandra Lartseva, Monica Tarcsay: violin; Simon Frick: viola; Bianca Riesner: cello; Herwig Hammerl: bass; Martin Grabher: drums.

Title: Never Bet The Devil Your Head | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Playscape Recordings

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