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Pasodoble

Lars Danielsson - Leszek Mozdzer

ACT Music ACT 9458-2 [55:27]

 

 



1 Praying (Danielsson)
2 Fellow (Danielsson)
3 Entrance (Danielsson)
4 Prado (Danielsson)
5 Pasodoble (Danielsson)
6 Daughter’s Joy (Danielsson)
7 It’s Easy With You (Mozdzer)
8 Hydrospeed (Mozdzer)
9 Reminder (Danielsson)
10 Innocence 91 (Mozdzer)
11 Follow My Backlights (Mozdzer)
12 Eja Mitt Hjärta (trad.)
13 Berlin (Danielsson)
14 Distances (Mozdzer)
Lars Danielsson (bass, cello)
Leszek Mozdzer (piano, celesta, harmonium)
Recorded, mixed and mastered at Nilento Studios, Gothenburg, Sweden, December 2006 / January 2007

 

This double act met not all that long ago, at a concert in Warsaw, and they have already released two successful albums with Israeli percussionist Zohar Fresco. The synergy between the two players is clear right from the start, and I’ve relished almost every moment of this stunningly played and performed album.

The opening track is immediately striking for the bass playing of Lars Danielsson. There are many excellent bass players around, but few whose intonation is as needle sharp as Danielsson’s – in all registers. This is one album where you can sit back and relax, without having to put up with any of that ‘straining to get somewhere near the note’ we all too often hear. His cello playing is genuine and expressive as well. Listening to It’s Easy With You, you can hear more comfortably classical lines and idiom than someone like Oscar Pettiford, who played it more like a mini-bass than a truly vocal instrument. That is one thing I like about Danielsson – he can be a musical chameleon, sounding almost like a clarinet or successfully subbing a sax, he really can and does sing with his bass, laying down a solid bass line where required, but phrasing lines like a vocalist in numbers like Fellow, and the atmospheric Berlin.

Pianist Leszek Mozdzer’s expressive right hand is an important element in the character of this album. Like Michel Petrucciani, the melody is the most important thing – the left hand has its own supporting role. I appreciate the lack of wishy-washy wandering around in most of his playing, but this is also an aspect of the compositional work, something which I will come back too later. Mozdzer’s sense of colour is expressed in the addition of celesta, which, overdubbed alongside the piano, almost becomes an element of percussion in the mix, like vibes or a glockenspiel. Interesting effects arise where the celesta notes echo those of the piano like a shadow on clear water – it can sound like a toy piano or a lonely voice plucked out of a Shostakovich symphony. Mozdzer sounds just a little less comfortable with the harmonium, whose late-speaking notes trail those of the piano a little at the end of Prado, but I compliment him on finding an instrument which is actually in tune! Damped strings in the funky Pasodoble and the excellent drive of Follow My Backlights are also an effective part of Mozdzer’s armoury. Straight piano playing remains central however, and all of these effects are used sparingly and with a light touch. I admire Mozdzer’s tasteful inventiveness and imagination as much as his admirable technique.

Some interesting effects are thrown in here and there, with baths of resonance and some electronic manipulation of the player’s sounds creating variety, and either atmosphere in a track like the folksong arrangement Eja Mitt Hjärta, or heightening the groove of the more rhythmic numbers. As mentioned before, overdubbing is quite an important aspect of the production of some of these tracks, and the duo are often in trio or even quartet with themselves, providing some truly remarkable combinations – two basses followed by bass and cello, for instance, in It’s Easy With You.

The writing is, with the exception of that one folk-sourced song, entirely the work of the players, and is immediate, approachable, and often strikingly beautiful. Danielsson likes the kind of slinky progressions and atmospheric effects which made Lyle Mays that little bit more interesting in the ‘80s, and adding in his traditionally Swedish soulfulness bring us some fascinating harmonies – the kind which can stick in your mind and keep you awake at night. One of the quiet high points is the disarmingly simple sounding Reminder, which could almost be dropped in as an aria during a Bach cantata. They’re not always equally brilliant: the ‘Send in the Clowns’ theme and subsequent meandering of Entrance didn’t do great things for me, but in general the standard is very, very high indeed. Mozdzer also contributes an acute sense of nuance and some genuinely attractive material, though his work is less through-composed, and frequently offers a more improvisatory framework. If you want to avoid the irritation of tiresomely ever-present drummers then this album offers a substantial and creative alternative. If you also like genuinely well composed and performed jazz, something in the order of Ralph Towner’s ‘Oregon’ group, or if like me you are a sucker for the high production values of a label like ECM, then this will tick all of the boxes for you as well.

Dominy Clements

 



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