Coinciding with the upcoming Danish Jazz Festival to be held in and around the New York City area we find yet another fine recording from a group of young Danes who look to enhance the already impressive catalogue of Danish-based Dacapo Records. The River: Image of Time and Life is a noteworthy new effort from “The Crossover Ensemble” featuring some already well-known Danish jazz stalwarts such as multi-reedman Thomas Gustafsson and the brilliant trombonist Mads Hyhne. Led by the 30-year-old pianist, Jakob Davidsen, “The Crossover Ensemble” doesn’t intend on misguiding you with a moniker that may imply “crossover attempts” or melding disparate musical art forms, which in the not too distant past has seen mixed or less than favorable results. A good thing when it works as this band perform modern jazz music featuring the thoughtful compositions and sharp arranging from Mr. Davidsen augmented by the cohesive and comprehensive ensemble work from these accomplished musicians.
The main body of work here is the 3 part suite, “The River: Image of Time and Place” which takes on ethereal or organic connotations although the music evolves in “Part 1” with cool, ever so sleek horns atop odd-metered percussion. Here, electric guitarist Per Gade, elevates the proceedings and generates suspense via his angular, rapid yet sinewy phrasing which gradually heightens the intensity level in climactic fashion as the horns fashion gleeful single note themes in unison. “Part 2” commences with a neo-classical type arrangement, perhaps a brief ode to Varese or Bartok? The horns muster more climactic activity underneath Flemming Agerskov’s fluent mid-upper register trumpet solo as the makeup or chemistry of this band parallels Davidsen’s plethora of inspirations, musical forces and expansive conceptual approaches. Davidsen’s arrangements and compositions do not divulge a particular influence or style. Many of the “crossover” stylizations remain under the hood so to speak as the themes and intriguing developments are non-derivative of any one particular style.
“Part 3” “cooks” as the sweeping drumming of Anders Mogensen and deep wooden toned bass of Nils Davidsen propel a forceful tempo, enhanced by Cennet Jonsson’s heated soprano sax solo as the story thus far is that of – exponential or graduating themes which adds a favorable degree of depth and authenticity to the music. The piece titled, “Mahogni” is a combo funk-swing as the ensemble sound like a little “big band” featuring worldbeat overtones and scorching solos from trombonist Hyhne and guitarist Per Gade. Here, the band enter the “red-zone” ....as the “Crossover Ensemble” speak volumes through intricate interplay and keen renderings of Davidsen’s work. The River: Image of Time and Life” is not austere or high-brow but at times relaxed or loose, yet a full-bodied comprehensive series of works and performances from a band which will hopefully be around for many years to come....* * * *
Jesper Riis & Flemming Agerskove; Trumpet, Flugelhorn: Cennet Jonsson & Thomas Gustafsson; Reeds: Mads Hyhne; Trombone: Per Gade; Guitar: Jakob Davidsen; Bass: Anders Mogensen; Drums.