Thomas Fonnesbaek / Justin Kauflin: Standards

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Over the past couple of years I’ve very much enjoyed the fleet-fingered yet thoughtful Fonnesbaek’s appearances at the Ystad Sweden Jazz Festival: first in pianist Lars Jansson’s contemporary trio with Paul Svanberg (d) and then in Charlie Parker 100 Years, a vibrant large-ensemble tribute led by Swedish saxophonist and arranger Karl–Martin Almqvist and featuring, a.o., Amanda Sedgwick (as), Anders Bergcrantz (t) and Zoltan Csörsz (d).

Those who are beginning to see this Danish bassist (whose own, personal sound is delivered pizzicato here) as the new NHØP should find much to bolster their case in this fine and lovely date with American pianist Kauflin. Hear Fonnesbaek’s cooking lines on a cascading version of McCoy Tyner’s Inception or his lead intro figures to Sentimental Mood and the title track from Oscar Peterson’s 1981 Nigerian Marketplace – one of the best albums of Peterson’s later years, with NHØP on board. 

The American Kauflin (born 1986) lost his sight by the time he was but 11 years old. Undeterred, he has gone on to become one of the most noted young(-ish) players across the pond, with a CV that includes work with Clark Terry and Quincy Jones. His early background was in classical violin and piano and Kauflin would seem to have transferred much of that early discipline to his limpid, lively – yet, once again, thoughtful – pianism, delivered here with both an unerringly classy touch and a correspondingly elegant quality of line, the deliciously sprung whole exemplified by a fresh and invigorating reading of Bouncing With Bud.

While there is much further swinging rhythm to relish (sample Ocean, Inception, It’s All Right With Me or the radically revivified A Train) the overall ethos is one of thoughtful lyricism, underpinned by a pleasingly refreshed and unforced harmonic literacy. Grown-up music for body and soul, heart and mind – hear their penetrating takes on Golson’s Whisper Not and Monk’s Midnight – this is the third album to feature Fonnesbaek and Kauflin together, following the previous duo session Synesthesia and the trio date Sharing with Billy Williams (d). I’m surely not the only listener who would welcome a whole lot more of their special chemistry being captured on record.

Discography
Bouncing With Bud; Take The A Train; How Deep Is The Ocean; In A Sentimental Mood; Whisper Not; Inception; Round Midnight; Nigerian Marketplace; It’s All Right With Me (55.09)
Fonnesbaek (b); Kauflin (p). Gothenburg, 14-15 June 2017.
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