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Joel Palsson: Septett

Dan McClenaghan By

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For those of us who aren't world travelers, hot jazz out of Iceland might seem unlikely. Or cool jazz for that matter, but saxophonist Joel Palsson's Septett takes a giant step toward putting that North Atlantic island nation on the jazz map.

Reed player Joel Palsson studied at the prestigious (for good reason) Berklee College of Music, graduating summa cum laude. He has appeared on over fifty recordings, with Septett being his second outing as a leader. The music here is rooted in the familiar, but containing a shade of the odd or otherworldly, as if the sound of jazz in the relative isolation in Reykjavik is evolving along parallel lines with its American counterpart, but with some small and very interesting divergencies— with you might say, an Iclandic tinge.

Septett has its share of fine solo spots for saxophone and trumpet, but the ensemble work is its strong point—spirited and swirling reed/brass conversations doing their give and take in front of a solid but quirky (in the best possible sense of the word) rhythm section.

One of the signatures of Palsson's complex arrangements—and one element of what I'm trying to get at with words like "odd" and "otherworldly" and "quirky"—is a keyboard undercurrent. The Hammond, Wurlitzer, sythesizers, sampler, and jarmdollo (a can that goes boo, like a cow, according to Palsson) are used subtly and judiciously throughout, without calling attention to themselves or taking the music away from and an accoustic/organic feel, giving density and fullness to songs that sometimes bop, and sometimes bring Ellington ( The Far East Suite ) or Gil Evans ( Sketches of Spain ) to mind. Palsson's music apparently knows no geographical boundaries.

A marvelous ensemble recording by Iceland's sax man, an effort that should should earn him an audience far beyond his North Atlantic homeland.

Track Listing: Surta, Yggur, Gooi Datinn, Hum, Seinni Frettir, Hundar, Kvabb

Personnel: Joel Palsson, tenor sax and bass clarinet; Greg Hopkins, trumpet and flugelhorn; Siguroor Flosason, bari and alto sax and bass clarinet; Einar Scheving, drums and a can that goes boo like a cow; Helgi Svavar, percussion, sampler, scat singing; Eybor Gunnarsson, keyboards; ValdimirKolbeinnn Sigurjonsson, bass

Title: Septett | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Omi Records

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