Sunday, January 22, 2012

Lars Danielsson - Tarantella (ACT, 2009)

Lars Danielsson - bass violin, cello, double bass
John Parricelli - guitar
Mathias Eick - trumpet
Leszek Mozdzer - piano, celesta, harpsichord
Eric Harland - drums, percussion

Tarantella (ACT, 2009)

Swedish bassist, cellist,composer and arranger Lars Danielsson is emerging as one of the key figures in the ACT stable. “Tarantella” is his fourth album for the label as a leader and he has also worked extensively as a sideman, most notably with singer Viktoria Tolstoy. In 2007 Danielsson released the duo album “Pasodoble” which paired him with Polish pianist Leszek Mozdzer. The record was a critical and commercial success and “Tarantella” can be seen as a development of the ideas explored on “Pasodoble”. This time Danielsson has widened his instrumental palette by expanding the line up to a quintet. Mozdzer remains on piano (he also contributes celesta and harpsichord) and a truly international line up is completed by Norwegian trumpeter Mathias Eick, British guitarist John Parricelli and American drummer/percussionist Eric Harland. It’s good to see a British musician getting some international exposure in such exalted company.

“Tarantella” consists of thirteen relatively short pieces that somehow manage to combine an almost classical structure and discipline with space for improvisation and individual impression. Despite the international line up there is still something inescapably Nordic about much of the record. Much of this is due not only to Danielsson’s writing style but also to the sound of Eick’s trumpet. The opening “Pegasus” features his breathy, lyrical sound above Parricelli’s gently circling guitar, Danielsson’s melancholy cello and Harland’s percussion shadings. It’s highly atmospheric and conjures up images of vast open spaces.

“Melody On Wood” is an inspired, lyrical conversation between Danielsson and Mozdzer. As one of several duo items on the record it can be seen as a direct successor to the music of “Pasodoble”. The brooding “Traveller’s Wife” is a solo showcase for Danielsson’s dramatic cello playing. It segues into “Traveller’s Defense”, a gorgeous melody that features Eick’s distinctive sound alongside Mozdzer’s crystalline piano. “1000 Ways” features Harland on percussion (it sounds like a ghatam or udu) and voice, his rich rhythmic patterns providing the backdrop for Mozdzer’s piano, Eick’s extraordinary high register trumpet squiggles and finally the leader’s cello. It’s an extraordinary piece and is credited to Danielsson/Mozdzer/Harland/Eick suggesting that it was born of group improvisation. “Ballet” is a return to duo territory with Danielsson and Mozdzer in typically unhurried conversation. The leaders eloquent bass frequently carries the melody in yet another beautiful example of the art of the duo. “Across The Sun” features Parricell’s conversational guitar and Eick’s highly stylised trumpet. As elsewhere the emphasis is very much on creating an atmosphere, a process that continues into the less structured “Introitus”.This eerie sounding piece is credited to Danielsson but has a decidedly improvisatory feel to it. Mozdzer takes the composer’s credit for “Fiojo”, another duo item. It is well up to the standards we’ve come to expect from this pairing with the composer’s flowing piano particularly impressive. The title track once again features ex Charles Lloyd sideman Harland on percussion. His busy undertow provides the backdrop for Mozdzer’s rippling piano and the leader’s beautifully articulated bass (his solo is astonishing). The sense of flamboyance and movement suggested by the title grows throughout the piece. Stunning. On the abstract ballad “Ballerina” Mozdzer’s sparse, glacial piano and Harland’s delicate cymbal touch combine with Danielsson’s sonorous bass and Parricelli’s guitar atmospherics to give an atmosphere of icy beauty.  Harland’s shuffling chill out drum groove provides the backbone of “The Madonna”, another startlingly beautiful piece featuring Eick’s mournful trumpet and Mozdzer’s sublimely lyrical piano. At six and a half minutes this is the album’s lengthiest piece and undoubtedly one of it’s stand out cuts.The gently elegiac “Postludium”, a duet for Danielsson and Mozdzer closes the record and adds an air of almost classical symmetry to the proceedings.

“Tarantella” is a remarkable record. Having assembled something of a “supergroup” Danielsson has totally avoided the clichés and pitfalls of the all-star jam. Instead he and his colleagues have created an album where egos are left at the door and the creation of mood and atmosphere is paramount. Each track is a self contained work of art, full of texture and nuance. The musicians flesh out the bones of Danielsson’s musical sketches beautifully, always serving the music. Eick’s distinctive trumpet sound is in the tradition of those other contemporary Scandinavian greats Henriksen and Molvaer but still with a style all his own. Harland adapts superbly to European methods of writing and playing and the versatile Parricelli is a subtle colourist. Mozdzer and Danielsson quietly dominate the record with some of their best playing and writing to date.

“Tarantella” is a quietly eloquent album that reveals new layers with each listening and is a worthy addition to the growing canon of great European jazz recordings.

Please check this film with "Fiojo" which is the only composition written by Leszek Możdżer for this album:

Author of text: Ian Mann

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