The partnership between Danish saxophonist Hans Ulrik and American bassist Steve Swallow can be traced back to the late '90s when they toured Europe and recorded three albums including Tin Pan Aliens (Stunt Records, 2005). Meanwhile drummer Anders Mogensen's collaboration with Swallow also began in the '90s, his busy calendar saw him perform alongside musicians such as Jerry Bergonzi and Walt Weiskopf. The final member in this meeting is guitarist and fellow Dane, Niclas Knudsen. Having performed with familiar names such as Billy Preston, Knudsen is a fine addition to this quartet, bringing a new level of dexterity to the ensemble setting.
The album comprises a variety of pieces including two Swallow compositions, a collection of traditional Danish tunes and originals by Ulrik and Carla Bley. The Meeting with Steve Swallow also includes a track by Brazilian composer Milton Nascimento entitled "Tristesse."
With a total of nine tracks, each has Ulrik as a performer but also as an arranger. His arrangements of "Tristesse," "Jeg er havren," "Jag vet en dejlig rosa" and "Lazy afternoon" by Jerome Moross all showcase his capability to piece together fresh takes of well-loved music. What is remarkably fascinating is how Swallow never finds himself taking control. These extremely talented Danish players bring us an enthralling display of music-making which is supported by the presence of Swallow. The class that this group oozes is reflected in their ability to play as one coherent unit with no participant dominating the rest.
The two traditional Danish tunes are most welcome, adding a satisfying Scandinavian feel to the release. The introduction to "Jag vet en dejlig rosa" is very similar to "Joyous" by Shabaka & the Ancestors , that sense of bringing folklore practice back into the music. "Jeg er havren" is captured interestingly with the inclusion of a bossa feel; somehow, it drifts along innocently. However, the highlight is "Lawns" by Carla Bley. It is such an intimate piece, written with careful precision, that there was no harm done when performing this cover. Alongside the tenor, Swallow invites Ulrik to play soprano on his tune "Ever After," which is also the shortest track on the album, giving a contrast to other lengthier numbers.
With such exceptional musicians supporting each other, it is predictable that every track on The Meeting with Steve Swallow is consistently strong.
Tristesse; Jeg Er Havren; Jeg vet en dejlig rosa; Ladies in Mercedes; Steve and Carla; Lazy Afternoon; Ever After;
Boys Night Out; Lawns
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