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Radio Bévort: Which Craft?

Ian Patterson By

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Pernille Bévort, the Danish saxophonist/composer and singer, has been quietly working her musical charms for over twenty years, as both a mainstay of the Danish big-band scene and leader of impressive small ensembles. Following the stripped-down, straight-ahead Trio Temptations (Gateway Music, 2014), Bévort rekindles her Radio Bévort project, whose Perfect Organisation (Gateway 2011)—with bandoneon player Marcello Nisinman—explored the confluence of jazz and tango nuevo. For Which Craft?, Francesco Cali features on accordion, as Bévort steers her highly attuned octet through tango-tinged originals—and more besides—with verve and style.

Much of the music's identity resides in the symmetry between Bévort—on tenor and soprano saxophone—and Kasper Wagner, who doubles on alto saxophone and clarinet. On the opening bars of the post-bop workout "Bevarro" and the bobbing groove of "Second Pit Stop," their dual reeds weave sumptuous paths, with flutist Mariane Bitran and guitarist Mads Kjølby intermittently swelling the chorus in rich, polyphonic waves. Pelle Fridell's bass clarinet, meanwhile, paints darker colors. Bévort's penchant for quasi-orchestral charts is balanced by the pronounced rhythmic dynamics; drummer Bjørn Heebøll and bassist Morten Ankarfeldt are major protagonists, alternating between deft comping and ensemble-steering drive.

Within that framework the music covers fairly wide stylistic territory. Tango is a presence throughout, ghostly at times, as on the impressionistic "Exit Engelsholm," and more overtly imagined at others. On "Heavy Feather" it's Bévort's tenor melody as much as Cali's accordion or Heebøll's brush patterns that invokes Buenos Aires tango noir. On "Minor Details," Cali's accordion is more prominent, though solos—uniformly excellent throughout—are secondary to Bévort's greater ensemble vision. The knotty unison lines, mantra-like motifs and staccato rhythms of the dramatic "Nine is Fine" exemplify the idea of the ensemble as Bévort's chief instrument.

There's more than a hint of classic-era Blue Note in the horns motif and bluesy piano comping of the cracking "Who's Got It? Here, Kjølby basks in the only extended guitar solo of the set, propelled by the rhythm section's industry. Tight unison lines are juxtaposed against looser dynamics on "The Band is On," where boisterous free-jazz frames Wagner's searching soprano lines. Bévort leads from the front on the Coltrane-esque "Tiny Hesitation," her tenor saxophone burrowing low and soaring high. It's just one of about half a dozen classy solo flights from the leader, reinforcing her credentials as an improviser par excellence.

The charismatic "WitchCraft" is classic Radio Bévort -rich unison lines, striking melodic counterpoint and punchy rhythms. Over a bass clarinet-cum-bass vamp, Heeboll works his kit animatedly, while Bévort stretches out on soprano—driving each other on. The steamy dialogue gradually evaporates, ushering in a near-hymnal coda. "Epilogue—Celebrating the Skeleton" rounds out a strong collection in atmospheric manner, horns and flute—all played by Bévort—combining to effect cinematic reverie; the apparent creaking leather and gentle clickety-clack of what sounds like bicycle wheels in motion provides the final sonic punctuation.

There's long been the feeling that Bévort's talents deserve greater acclaim and much wider exposure. Which Craft?, another compelling addition to her impressive discography, once more makes the case for Bévort as an original composer/arranger and a fine instrumentalist. Her craft, rooted in tradition yet of subtly contemporary outlook, is definitely worth tuning in to.

Track Listing: Bevarro; Second Pit Stop; Heavy Feather; Minor Details; Nine is Fine; Exit Engelsholm; Who's Got It; The Band is On; Tiny Hesitation; WitchCraft; Epilogue - Celebrating Skeleton.

Personnel: Pernille Bévort: tenor and soprano saxophone; Mariane Bitran: c flute and alto flute; Kasper Wagner: alto saxophone and clarinet; Pelle Fridell: bass clarinet and tenor saxophone; Mads Kjølby: guitar; Francesco Cali: accordeon and piano; Morten Ankerfeldt: bass; Bjørn Heebøll: drums.

Title: Which Craft? | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Gateway Music

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CD/LP/Track Review
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