Nikolaj Hess
Gateway **** RECOMMENDED
Bill Frisell and Sex Mob alumni bassist Tony Scherr and drummer Kenny Wollesen have joined forces here with the Danish pianist Nikolaj Hess to release a distinctly Bob Dylan-flavoured “new melodic” album. Recorded last year in Brooklyn it opens bravely, and quite brilliantly as it turns out, with a ballad, the Dylan song ‘Make You Feel My Love’ Adele has made familiar in recent years. A later take on Dylan’s ‘Masters of War’, originally released 50 years ago on The Free Wheelin’ Bob Dylan (‘I just want you to know/I can see through your masks’), shows the trio’s teeth, its effortlessly intuitive layering the improvisational motion at work. The trio operate like an undercurrent in a fast flowing stream with Hess, a little Jef Neve-like at times, providing a disturbance of ideas that stimulate the trio and alter its course. Apart from the Dylan tunes and Ellington’s ‘Cotton Tail’ the rest of the compositions are the Dane’s own, yet the 10 tunes have a seamless flow and knit together as a collection. Scherr’s buzzy bass, brooding and typically exploratory, emerges time and again as the probing piano makes unhurried progress towards a sense of resolution the edgy drums often provide. It’s an enthralling listen, one that should greatly enhance Hess’ international reputation, but also show Scherr and Wollesen in a strong new light. 
Nikolaj Hess, above