After a recording hiatus of seven years, Bévort 3, the trio led by Pernille Bevort
, is back. Not that the Danish saxophonist-composer has been idling. Since the release of Trio Temptations
(Gateway Music, 2014), Bévort has dedicated most of her energy to expanded line-ups. Which Craft?
(Gateway Music, 2016) for octet and BLIK
(Self Produced, 2020) for her Radio Bévort septet highlighted Bévort's penchant for arranging multiple voicesa fact recognized by the Danish Conductor's Association, which honored Bévort's achievements in April 2021. By contrast, On Fire
sees Bévort once more embrace the stripped-down intimacy of classic, saxophone-led ensembles typical of the 1950s and 1960s.
On these seven originals, bassist Morten Ankarfeldt
's grooving ostinatos and drummer Espen Laub von Lillienskjold
's lithe stick and brush work provide the rhythmic fulcrum for Bévort's mazy melodic flights. The saxophonist's catchy heads are a springboard for her improvisations, as on the cantering opener "LOOZE," where she serves early notice of both her formidable technique and the alluring storytelling craft common to the best improvisors. If Bévort perhaps channels the spirit of Joe Henderson
on the brushes-led "Theme for Ernie," it is to Sonny Rollins
that she seems to turn for inspiration on the boppish "Sketch," where she blazes a trail of burrowing intensity.
The very title of the gentle swinger "The Shorter the Better" tips a wink to Wayne Shorter
, another on whose shoulders Bévort proudly stands. Like the Newark-born saxophonist of The Jazz Messengers
, Miles Davis
and Weather Report
fame, Bévort tends to make every note count, striving for emotional effect over more facile pyrotechnic display. That is not to say Bévort will not sink her teeth into a solo. On the contrary, there is plenty of fire in her more expansive excursions, but the overriding impression here is one of tempered lyricism that draws from deep wells.
Another terrific bass groove drives the memorable title track, with a shift in tempo into fast-walking bass terrain further stoking Bévort's coals. The leader lays out as von Lillienskjold cuts loose with some flair before the trio returns to the head and neat closure.
The trio breathes deeply on the slower "Who Leaves II," with the leader, on soprano saxophone, casting a beguiling spell, over a spare bass line and a subtly voiced, martial drum pattern. At the tail of this gently lulling composition, a field recording of birdsong and breeze makes a brief cameo, as though underlying the natural roots of music. Ankarfeldt's finger-snapping groove and Bévort's delightfully funky motif announce the curiously titled "Kill Your Darlings," a straight-ahead burner which stirs Bévort to some of her most animated playing of the set.
At just over thirty-five minutes, On Fire
is a lean, though highly satisfying, offering. Like all good storytellers, Bévort knows that the real trick lies in knowing when to quit, leaving them wanting more. And that is precisely what On Fire
LOOZE; Theme for Ernie; Sketch; The Shorter the Better; On Fire; Who Leaves II; Kill Your Darlings.