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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



Mélange Bleu

ACT NU JAZZ 9604-2 [70:26]



Mélange Bleu (Danielsson) [3:59]
Makro (Danielsson) [5:29]
Les Coulisses (Danielsson, Wesseltoft, [4:47]
Ironside (Danielsson) [7:39]
Judas Bolero (Danielsson) [19:49]
Minor People (Danielsson) [3:52]
Sketches of Twelve (Danielsson, Wesseltoft) [10:33]
Naïve (Danielsson) [5:28]
Bacchanalia (Danielsson) [4:07]
After Zero (Danielsson) [4:17]
Lars Danielsson (cello, acoustic bass, Fender bass, piano, Fender Rhodes); Bugge Wesseltoft (piano); Nils Petter Molvaer (trumpet); Elvind Arset (guitar); Jon Christensen (drums, percussion); Jan Bang (samples, live sampling); Pål "Strangefruit" Nyhus (vinyl channelling); Vytas and Mario Basanov (beats and samples); Caecile Norby (vocals); Gustaf Ljunggren (steel guitar, synthesizer); Xavier Desandre Navarre (percussion); Copenhagen Concert Orchestra, directed by Henrik Vagn Christensen
rec. Rainbow studio, Oslo; additional recording at Nilento Studios, Göteborg; Danish Radio, Copenhagen; Pantin Plage Studio; 7Etage, Oslo. No dates given

The personnel / instrumentation listed above will tell you that this is not a CD short on resources of colour and texture. And that, sometimes, is the problem. On some tracks there is such a fascination with the exploitation both of the acoustic instruments and the electronics, that the sounds produced run the risk of becoming an end in themselves. One listens, waiting for some kind of development – only to find the track coming to an end before anything very memorable has happened.

Certainly, there is plenty of talent involved here. Danielsson is an accomplished writer at his best and an interesting soloist. Bugge Wesseltoft is an excellent pianist, though sometimes he is employed in a kind of sub-ECM fashion that soon palls. Nils Petter Molvaer is a very fine trumpeter indeed. But too often the ears are in danger of being distracted from their work by the over-busy context of techno and ambient clichés or rather dull orchestral strings.

Fortunately a few tracks – and one in particular – stand out rewardingly. ‘Minor People’ sustains a hushed and mysterious air, and Wesseltoft’s piano is heard to very good effect. There is interesting, inventive work on ‘Sketches of Twelve’, though the track is too long for its own good. But the outstanding track – and the one which more than justifies the CD – is ‘Judas Bolero’. Even at almost twenty minutes, length is no problem here. The trumpet of Nils Petter Molvaer and the cello of Lars Danielsson hold the foreground, Molvaer at times sounding like an updated version of the Miles Davis of Concierto de Aranjuez and at other times very much himself, Danielsson spinning long melancholy lines which are sometimes picked up attractively by Wesseltoft at the piano; all this against a lush electronic and orchestral background, punctuated and accented by Christensen’s masterly drumming. Beautifully measured patterns of tension and relaxation grip the listener’s attention throughout the slow unwinding of the music, before a conclusion in which Molvaer’s trumpet resonates into the distance. A minor masterpiece.

So, a mixed bag, but well worth hearing, especially for ‘Judas Bolero’.

Glyn Pursglove


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