The Luboš Soukup Ensemble's Through the Mirror (Animal Music ****) is an inspiring album from the Czech saxophonist’s quartet expanded upon by the use of a string quartet, horns, including trumpeter Gerard Presencer, and woodwind on Soukup’s original tunes shaped around two sections, the first of these, Soukup has commented obliquely, is about fragility; whereas the second draws on melodic input. Blend in literary influences including Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, themes of exile, and a love of the music of Wayne Shorter.
Opening lugubriously with ‘Street’, then the Django Bates-esque ‘On the Wings of a Story’, the bass-led beautifully gathered Kundera track following, by the time you get to ‘Shaman’ where Soukup on soprano cuts the air like a Steve Lacy knife before switching to tenor for the big solo, you’re in safe hands. ‘Slav in Scandinavia’ is where the originality in the writing seeps through begun on clarinet. ‘Mirror’ is more Cagian at first before the melody takes on a Komeda-like dimension, while ‘Cookin’ kicked off by drummer Morten Haesum responded to by woozy horns, the latter part of the album is a little more contemplative, a certain menace injected cleverly on a track such as ‘Under the Sky’. Birdsong at the beginning of ‘Through the Mirror’ (a contrast to the schoolyard bell that heralds ‘Street’) completes a highly collectable album.
Listen to ‘Mirror’ from the album above