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Hailing from Norway, Pixel's debut release Reminder (Cuneiform, 2012) was a shot of adrenaline for many aficionados and critics with its sprightly and irrefutably seamless alliance between Indie Rock and progressive jazz. Led by bassist Ellen Andrea Wang and her alluring pop-like vocal delivery, there are few operating entities that sport a signature sound, merging technically challenging jazz compositions with radio-friendly vocal choruses and gushing with highly melodic content. On We Are All Small Pixels, the band hits its stride in rather momentous fashion. Otherwise, this is an ensemble that prolifically bridges the gap between jazz and rock without employing electronic gadgetry and high-volume guitar escapades or use of synthesizers.
Trumpeter Jonas Kilmorek Vemoy and saxophonist Harald Lassen work as a multitasking machine as they often render chord-like unison choruses with Wang's enchanting vocal delivery that also projects an air of innocence throughout. They kick the proceedings off with the pulsating "Be Mine." Integrated with circular horn charts, Wang's memorably melodic refrains unify pop culture with a chops-minded jazz outlook, boosted by Lassen's intense soprano sax solo towards the finale. On "Edge," drummer Jon Audun Baar launches a resonating rock beat as Wang establishes the primary theme amid her rousing and sweet-toned vocals, formulating a piece designed with popping horns and vibrant grooves. From a live performance perspective, it would seem like an appropriate choice for an encore.
The band's repertoire also includes works engineered with alternating tempos, pop-like vocal harmonies and hard-hitting jazz rockers, tinted with complex horns passages and ample space for the soloists to strut their stuff. With "Sigma," the musicians pleasantly get in-your-face and closeout the festivities with the catchy "Time," via Wang's whispery, heartfelt singing atop Lassen's soft sax parts and Baar's pacesetting percussion maneuvers.
The bottom line is that Pixel could potentially take the jazz world by storm with the assistance of a substantial marketing push and aggressive worldwide touring schedule. No doubt, they possess the goods and paint a sunny outlook that exudes energy, excitement and a penchant for writing hummable compositions that sustain long-term value.
Track Listing: Be Mine; Space; Farris; Edge; Night Dreamer; Easter Song; Passport;
Dreaming; Sigma; Daylight; Time.
Personnel: Ellen Andrea Wang: double bass and vocal; Jonas Kilmork Vemoy: trumpet;
Harald Lassen: tenor saxophone and soprano saxophone; Jon Audun Baar:
drums and percussion.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.