All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

6

Christian Vuust: Urban Hymn

Ian Patterson By

Sign in to view read count
Multi-reedist/composer Christian Vuust has been a mainstay of the Danish jazz scene for close to thirty years. A professor at the Royal Academy of Music in his hometown of Aarhus, Vuust has crafted a significant discography as leader, working with some of Denmark's best jazz musicians. Urban Hyms marks a departure for Vuust, being his first CD recorded outside Denmark. Recorded in a single day in New York, Jeff Ballard, Ben Street and Aaron Parks's sophisticated yet subtle support frames Vuust's original compositions, which draw deeply from European and American wells alike.

Danish psalms have heavily influenced Vuust—he's made five recordings in the Danish Psalm Duo with pianist Hans Esbjerg—and his warm tone and unhurried delivery owe as much to the simple melodic narrative of church song as they do the New York jazz tradition. In the main, fidelity to the tunes and their overriding ambiance outweigh overt shows of virtuosity and given the brief time together in the studio the quartet sounds remarkably tight. Bass, drums and piano sound as one on the first beat of "Helgenæs," the trio entering the spirit of the song without preamble. Vuust and Parks deliver gently sparkling solos, a prelude to a delightful saxophone/piano unison motif accompanied by Ballard's bewitching percussive accents.

Street, whose presence is felt as much as heard, instills a subtly bobbing rhythm on the laid back "Lærke," a feature for Parks, whose pristine solo is framed by Vuust's spare, melodic lines. Ballard switches to brushes on the softly hymnal title track, the slow contours of which emphasize the warmth in the saxophonist's phrasing. The tender ballad "Wedding Song" shares similar roots and features a teasingly brief intervention from Street. Ballard's processional fills conjure ceremony, contrasting with the emotive quality of Vuust and Park's playing.

Several numbers are inspired outright by Vuust's New York sojourn: the aptly named "Rubato NYC" is a ruminative piece notable for its spaciousness; greater rhythmic pulse imbues "Biking the Big Apple," with piano and bass vamps and propulsive drums doing the pedaling as Vuust's smoothly evolving lines cut a more impressionistic flow. Pianist and saxophonist work in close unison on the mellifluous "Tompkins Square Park"-a storied corner of Manhattan and one of the homes to the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival.

The intensity and emotional energy of the evocative "Fjer"—featuring another nuanced solo from Parks—may owe as much to New York's vibes as any of Vuust's other compositions. "Summer Bygone" is a traditional Inuit song from Greenland; Vuust collaborated with Swedish guitarist Tobias Sjogren on Northern Voices: The Thule Spirit (Virgin Records, 1997)—elaborate arrangements of Eskimo drum songs—and his balladic approach on this song from the Thule region is heartfelt and compelling.

Vuust's sensitive compositions and mellow tenor lines exert a subtle gravitational pull. The distillation of European church/folk song, East Coast jazz and Eskimo traditions is complete, rendering a seamless, lyrical voice inspired by cityscapes and spiritual expression. Urban hymns indeed.

Track Listing: Helgenæs; Lærke; Urban Hymn; Rubato NYC; Fjer; Wedding Song; Biking The Big Apple; Tompkins Square Park; Summer Bygone.

Personnel: Christian Vuust: tenor saxophone; Aaron Parks: piano; Ben Street: bass; Jeff Ballard: drums.

Title: Urban Hymn | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Self Produced

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Dirt...And More Dirt CD/LP/Track Review
Dirt...And More Dirt
by Karl Ackermann
Published: May 22, 2018
Read Brother Raymond CD/LP/Track Review
Brother Raymond
by Roger Farbey
Published: May 22, 2018
Read Frescalalto CD/LP/Track Review
Frescalalto
by Ian Patterson
Published: May 22, 2018
Read Motion CD/LP/Track Review
Motion
by Geannine Reid
Published: May 22, 2018
Read El Duende CD/LP/Track Review
El Duende
by Chris Mosey
Published: May 22, 2018
Read Walk The Walk CD/LP/Track Review
Walk The Walk
by Mark Sullivan
Published: May 21, 2018
Read "The Urmuz Epigrams" CD/LP/Track Review The Urmuz Epigrams
by Don Phipps
Published: April 9, 2018
Read "Live at Ronnie Scott's" CD/LP/Track Review Live at Ronnie Scott's
by Geno Thackara
Published: September 10, 2017
Read "Organ Monk, The Breathe Suite" CD/LP/Track Review Organ Monk, The Breathe Suite
by Jerome Wilson
Published: June 10, 2017
Read "Ellipse" CD/LP/Track Review Ellipse
by Matt Hooke
Published: March 27, 2018
Read "Kinship" CD/LP/Track Review Kinship
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 8, 2017
Read "Stolen Moments" CD/LP/Track Review Stolen Moments
by Jack Bowers
Published: August 17, 2017