There’s a soft bluesy rustle to the beginning of veteran Danish pianist Ole Matthiessen’s latest album, I suppose the spirit of Swedish pianist Bengt Hallberg isn’t too distant on opener ‘Love Song,’ the melancholic trumpet of Henrik Bolberg a throwback to the heyday of modal jazz adding an irresistible flavour.
Matthiesen has been around for ages and knows this kind of music inside out: there’s no hurry, no panic, the windswept tenor of Bob Rockwell somehow reassuring and safe. All the tunes are the pianist’s and they all have a beginning, middle and end in the best traditions of jazz storytelling. He taps into a McCoy Tyner style on ‘Augustaften i Tivoli’ with drummer Ole Streenberg tapping along manfully, the atmosphere straight out of the 1960s or some long forgotten cellar, a late night session just getting under way.
With nods to Dave Brubeck and John Coltrane along the way there’s an easy facility and expert grasp of the material from the quintet (Danish bass star Jesper Lundgaard is here to complete the quintet). OK, you might think there isn't much original here but that’s not the point which is rather to conjure and bask in a bygone music the whole thing played with a lot of love and respect.
Released on 30 October
Norah Jones was always ‘near jazz’ and then she was pop and country and now she’s moving ever closer to where she started out. There’s a smouldering, classic old school atmosphere to the album, the songs take it slow, ‘Burn’ and ‘Tragedy’ moody and blue to begin with. But as ever atmosphere transcends notions of pure genre.
If you want to make a great jazz vocals album you have to come up with the melodies. ‘Flipside,’ the third track, has more of a driving feel but the song comes across a little bland and that’s something the album has to desperately avoid and in the main does. But there are no really great songs here either lyrically or in terms of melody. It’s just rather nice, a fuzzy kind of feeling that Norah Jones and this kind of jazz inculcates.
Recorded with the very non-bland Wayne Shorter, fellow Blue Note artist, making an appearance as a badge of honour for Jones, Wayne’s drummer Brian Blade and bassist John Patitucci and another Blue Note artist in organist Lonnie Smith, the album has middle of the road stamped all over it, and there’s even a nod to her country interests on ‘Don’t Be Denied’ a song that doesn’t fit so well.
As for the title track it stands out beyond genre again something Jones in her career to date has been adept at doing. The version of Horace Silver’s ‘Peace’ and Ellington’s ‘Fleurette Africaine,’ with Jones’ hauntingly low humming and a highly effective mournful Wayne Shorter contribution adding character to the latter, are probably where a lot of jazz fans will tune in to first and in all fairness Jones injects the right sort of feel and pace in both of these stand-outs.
An album I’m sure we’ll hear a lot of in the coming months and one that has garnered a lot of publicity in the last few weeks. It’s not a terrific album but it ticks a lot of boxes and will draw a lot of non-jazz listeners in for a quick look around but possibly equally rapid getaway.