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Jasper Blom Quartet: Polyphony

Roger Farbey By

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Saxophonist Jasper Blom's double album Polyphony, released on Whirlwind, centres around two key elements. Firstly, his long- standing penchant for adding a guest soloist to his quartet, reflected in each disc having its own additional musician. On the first CD there is trumpeter Bert Joris, with whom Blom and his quartet have played for several years, whereas on the second CD, the extra player is Nils Wogram on trombone. The music on both discs was recorded live at Amsterdam's famous Bimhuis on May 21, 2016 (CD 1) and February 10, 2018 (CD 2). The second, arguably more crucial, catalyst for the album was Blom's fascination with medieval polyphony and how it translates to twenty-first-century jazz. Obviously with two horns it is easier to deliver and certainly works satisfyingly well.

All the music was composed by Blom himself with the exception of the traditional "Homme Armé," introduced by Frans van der Hoeven's resonant bass, and the medieval-sounding "Beatus Vir" by the Renaissance composer Orlando Di Lasso, arranged by Blom. "Waltz For Magnus" kicks off the Joris set with hand-drumming and a memorable head. The polyphony signposted by the album title is acutely felt with numbers such as "Guidonean Hand" where the two horns purposefully intertwine. Likewise there's a gripping contrapuntal melody on "Virelai." Guitarist Jesse van Ruller has his work cut out executing the dual roles of chordal accompanist and soloist. He achieves this with aplomb as is heard throughout, especially on tracks like "The Lady And The Unicorn" where he provides exceptionally lithe guitar lines. But some of the set sounds almost funky, such as the off-kilter "Ciconia" which resolves with relaxed and bluesy solos from both Joris and Blom.

The Nils Wogram set opens tentatively with the appropriately named "Decidophobia," but the sax and trombone here have an attractive, tonally- warming effect. The fast and free-ish "Running Gag," replete with descending spirals of notes, cedes to a more sedate "Nancy In The Sky." By contrast the groove-laden "Macedonian Candidate" has an M-Base quality about it. The playfully stop/start nature of "Least Of Your Worries" is, paradoxically, a strong feature and eventually invites a subtle groove to return. This sporadic methodology is revisited on "Whirl," and the closer, "Antidote," is enveloped by a superficially lugubrious but unequivocally haunting theme. Overall, the two CDs are essentially different in tone and texture, with the trombone precipitating a more angular set, but this may just be coincidental since both dates are characterised by Blom's clever and frequently complex compositions.

Track Listing: CD 1: Waltz for Magnus; Guidonean Hand; Virelai; Fontayne; The Lady And The Unicorn; Homme Armé; Beatus Vir; Ciconia. CD 2: Decidophobia; Running Gag; Nancy In The Sky; Macedonian Candidate; Least Of Your Worries; Monk Fish Cleopatra; Whirl; Antidote.

Personnel: CD 1: Jasper Blom: tenor saxophone; Bert Joris: trumpet; Jesse van Ruller: guitar; Frans van der Hoeven: double bass; Martijn Vink: drums. CD 2: Jasper Blom: tenor saxophone; Nils Wogram: trombone; Jesse van Ruller: guitar; Frans van der Hoeven: double bass; Martijn Vink: drums.

Title: Polyphony | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Whirlwind Recordings

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