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Chris Dundas / Arild Andersen / Bendik Hofseth / Patrice Heral: Oslo Odyssey

Dan McClenaghan By

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What's up with Oslo, Norway? Two of the outstanding recordings by of 2014 have come out of the city: pianist Paul Bley's Play Blue (ECM Records), and now Los Angeles-based pianist Chris Dundas' Oslo Odyssey (BLM Records).

Dundas' profile isn't exactly soaring through the stars. He has one previous recording as a leader to his name, a very good mainstream affair from the year 2000, featuring saxophonist Bob Sheppard. What Oslo Odyssey represents for Dundas is something of a (bluesman) Robert Johnson moment—he slips off the recording radar for a long spell, then comes back with a set so fine he may well have made a deal with the devil.

Norwegian bassist Arild Andersen, and ECM Records mainstay, as a sideman and leader, is the senior member of the quartet Dundas assembled. His presence is huge. Dundas hoped to achieve a sound and atmosphere with this set similar to pianist Keith Jarrett's Scandinavian Quartet, featuring saxophonist Jan Garbarek. He succeeded with a cinematic and spacious sound that also recalls Andersen's 1970s quartet recordings on ECM Records.

Note that "ECM Records" keep coming up. The cover art and the sound of Oslo Odyssey: the translucence spaciousness, the clarity, the ephemeral, dream-like quality of the compositions—all Dundas originals, with the exception of pianist Denny Zeitlin's beautiful "Quiet Now, on disc 1; all group improvisations on disc 2—and the cinematic scope of the overall work of art would fit right in with what is called the "ECM aesthetic." And BLM Records? Not much info out there on them. Google BLM Records and you get a lot of information about the Bureau of Land Management.

Along with Anderson, Dundas is joined by two more Norwegian players—drummer Patrice Heral and saxophonist Bendik Hofseth. The sound they create is mystical and luminescent. There are moments of subtle electronic drone (from Anderson and Heral) acting as a backdrop to the the most delicate and measured-yet spontaneous sounds. Time seems suspended, or rendered without meaning.

Disc 1, as previously mentioned, features Dundas composed music. In-the-moment improvisation is a huge part of this package. Arild Andersen solos like no other bassist alive—sharp, succinct notes perfectly situated inside the transparent and exquisite comping. And then the quartet takes that art of inspired spontaneity to the next level on Disc 2, beginning with the astonishingly gorgeous 23 minute "Pilgrimage," and on into the the closer, "Full Circle," that begins with Bendik Hofseth's holy notes, a saxophone prayer leading into Dundas disjointed sounds—a wind chime piano—before the quartet gels into an unexpectedly wicked, danceable groove, with saxophonist Hofseth growling demonically. The devil taking his payment perhaps.

This is a quartet set of the highest order. Music at its very best.

Track Listing: CD 1: Great Pacific Garbage Patch Waltz; Quiet Now; You're Gonna Tempt Me; Friends Forever; Lemming Ade; Lontano; Fukishima Rain. CD 2: Pilrimage; Waiting For The 4:20 From Godot; If I Should Come Home; Full Circle.

Personnel: Chris Dundas: piano; Bendik Hofseth: tenor saxophone; Arild Andersen: bass, live electronics; Patrice Heral: drums, live electronics.

Title: Oslo Odyssey | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Self Produced

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