23

Traeben: Push

Ian Patterson By

Sign in to view read count
A large gap separating a band's CDs usually signals a change in direction. Danish/Dutch combo Traeben's debut, Nordic Project (D.A.P Records, 2008), presented jazz reworkings of Danish and Swedish folk songs, following the lead of Swedish jazz musicians including trumpeter Bengt-Arne Wallin and pianist Jan Johansson in the 1960s, and Norwegian pianist Dag Arnesen in the 2000s, who were all similarly inspired. Traeben's interpretations were lyrical, gently voiced blues, reminiscent of saxophonist Jimmy Giuffre's late 1950s trios featuring guitarist Jim Hall. Push differs primarily in that the quartet delivers all originals, and drummer Haye Jellema—replacing Thorsten Grau—injects greater rhythmic breadth. There are signs too, of more risqué musical pastures beckoning, though the aesthetic remains essentially unaltered from its debut recording.

Guitarist Jens Larsen—the arranger on Nordic Project—composed all but one tune, and they stem from guitar and Soren Ballegaard's tenor announcing the heads in unison, before peeling away in turn to solo at length. The vibrant opener, "Top Dog," sees Larsen and Ballegaard stretching out over an animated rhythm. Jellema's energetic solo, building gradually over a repeating guitar/saxophone motif that rises in intensity, provides a dramatic finale. The balladic "Try to Remember" starts from a similar blueprint, though utilizes more space. The song takes wings from a ruminative, solo guitar passage, into whose gravity Olaf Meijer's bass and Jellema's brushes are pulled. Tenor also briefly explores unaccompanied territory, and this uncluttered approach is refreshing.

The quietly grooving "God Makes Backups" is as good a calling card as any; the front-line combines chops with lyricism while the rhythm section buoys the quartet and explores its own spaces. The brushes-caressed ballad "Can You?" features a particularly tender bass solo. Larsen treads softly before ceding to Ballegaard's equally lyrical voice. The chemistry between guitarist and saxophonist is keenly felt—their collaboration dates back fifteen years—and they adopt an unhurried approach to improvisation where development of the melody is key.

The aptly titled "Simple Things" revolves around a basic, almost baroque-blues bass line, and features delicate lead and counterpoint voices. It's a beautiful tune, and highlights Traeben's intuitive interplay. "All it Needs" is another softly voiced number; the head stated, guitar emerges from a washing cymbal and stretches out before bass takes over, returning the quartet to the melodic head. "Catatraffic" features Ballegaard's most animated playing, while Larsen's more restrained improvisation is also notable.

The format, however, becomes slightly predictable. Despite appealing melodies and excellent playing there's little that's truly memorable. The exception is the rock-informed "We'll Let You Know"; its heavy beat, melodic heart and plunging power chords—interspersed between ruminative passages—point to potentially fertile ground for the quartet to explore. "We'll Let You Know" might have been better placed closing the album, as the lovely "Simple Things," Ballegaard's grooving "Nothing or Nothing at All" and "Mi Hijo" sound rather conventional following in its mold-breaking wake—though Jellema's bristling solo on the latter provides an album highlight.

Traeben's tasteful, elegant tunes undoubtedly appeal to the ear, but it's going to take another round before it hits the gut. Still, a band brimming with potential, and one to keep a weather eye on.

Track Listing: Top Dog; Try to Remember; God Makes Backups; Can You?; Catatraffic; All It Needs; We’ll Let You Know; Simple Things; Nothing Or Nothing At All; Mi Hijo.

Personnel: Jens Larsen: guitar; Søren Ballegaard: tenor saxophone; Olaf Meijer: bass; Haye Jellema: drums.

Title: Push | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Jarr Records


Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Whispers on the Wind CD/LP/Track Review Whispers on the Wind
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 23, 2017
Read Shropshire Lads: Songs to the Poems of AE Housman CD/LP/Track Review Shropshire Lads: Songs to the Poems of AE Housman
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: October 23, 2017
Read Heptagon CD/LP/Track Review Heptagon
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 23, 2017
Read ON Tour CD/LP/Track Review ON Tour
by John Kelman
Published: October 22, 2017
Read On a Distant Shore CD/LP/Track Review On a Distant Shore
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: October 22, 2017
Read Friends & Heroes: Guitar Duets CD/LP/Track Review Friends & Heroes: Guitar Duets
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 22, 2017
Read "Alaya" CD/LP/Track Review Alaya
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 9, 2017
Read "Signal 9" CD/LP/Track Review Signal 9
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 22, 2017
Read "It Will Come" CD/LP/Track Review It Will Come
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 16, 2017
Read "Pastures" CD/LP/Track Review Pastures
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 26, 2016
Read "Acceptance" CD/LP/Track Review Acceptance
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 26, 2017
Read "Signaling" CD/LP/Track Review Signaling
by Troy Dostert
Published: May 11, 2017

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY IT!  

Support our sponsor

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.