Karsten Vogel: This Is It

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In 2016 Storyville released a previously unknown 1966 concert recording by Cadentia Nova Danica, a medium-sized band that featured a duo of alto players … Vogel and John Tchicai. In my five-star review I banged on about how I had seen the band in October 1968 and how that gig remained a strong contender for the best I’ve ever attended.  For me their music was magical, with its breathtaking mix of ritualistic ensembles, roiling African-influenced percussion and jostling group improvisations that recalled the New York groups Tchicai had previously been part of. Vogel was an admirable match for the more-celebrated Tchicai, and produced some of the most spine-tingling playing at that concert and on the long-unavailable LP recorded a few weeks after the London concert where I heard them. 

Like so many members of the 60s “avant-garde” Vogel long ago slid back into the mainstream, which is sensible or a trifle disappointing, depending on your taste and viewpoint. I never like to damn with faint praise, but I’d characterise this album as one that you could play to dinner guests without curdling their dessert.

Whilst there is nothing on This Is It to make the hairs on the nape of your neck prickle there is much immaculate playing on nine engaging Vogel compositions. The mostly lithe and easy-going tunes lead to attractive improvisations that occasionally develop a tart edge. Sometimes, as with a keyboard solo by Knudsen, Fridell or Tchicai on “Ouleeka”, a tougher element surfaces, but the overall tone is smooth-running, engaging and accessible.

There’s nothing wrong with any of that, and I wish I could be more enthusiastic as these are all fine musicians who play well-crafted compositions impeccably and the production achieves a rich sound, but at my time of life it takes more to get the blood circulating.

Discography
Montmartre; Kyoto; Second of May;This Is It; A Golden Song (of Love); Air Air; Ouleeka; No Time; Lily and the Bird (40.51)
Vogel (ss, as, ts, vn, kyb, programming); Thomas Oveson (b) with, collectively:
Daniel Fridell (p, kyb); Kenneth Knudsen (kyb); Klaus Menzer (d, pc); Ole Streenberg (d); Louise Nipper (v). January-June 2018.
Storyville 101 4321