Aura, the 1989 Miles Davis album produced, composed and arranged by Danish trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg, is not just one of my favourite late-period Miles albums, it's one of my favourite Miles albums.
With Mikkelborg, who turns 80 in a few months, it's impossible not to think of that classic but also when you hear him on this superb album, his sense of space and freedom and that yes Milesian sound is always compelling. Palle's artistry I'm certain is firmly embedded in the internal vision a generation later of another Nordic great, Nils Petter Molvær.
Storyville is not a label you necessarily turn to as a priority even though it has been a stalwart trad outfit over the years. That is until a recent purple patch often involving reissues and a few choice new albums have raised the bar once again. They have definitely excelled themselves with Mikkelborg and Bjarne Roupé's Pieces: Generations at Sunrise to be released on Friday.
Basically a very elegant and sometimes quite moving quartet affair recorded at the JB10 venue in the Danish town of Næstved, Mikkelborg, bassist Anton Langebæk, percussionist Benjamin Barfod and electric guitarist Roupé all take their time and you could easily imagine yourself lying down flat chilling to opener 'Witchi-tai-to'. Nothing much happens for quite a while and then suddenly however everything pops into place and Barfod provides a really tactile percussive opening to John Coltrane classic 'Naima,' Roupé's riffing eventually leads us into the glorious tune interpreted by Mikkelborg by this very scenic route. In other words even if you know the melody (of course you do), you won't recognise the introduction at all. It's a composition all by itself. When Mikkelborg comes in eventually it's a great moment and the album is full of them. I'm sure the synaesthetes among you will have a field day with this record, it certainly has a sensory and imagistic factor that lifts it higher in its best passages. I'll not bang on but even 'Nature Boy' as familiar as your own face at the end sounds brand new. A case if ever there was one of let's get lost in the Mikkelborg sound all over again and let it wash all over. SG On Storyville, out on 15 January