Oh boy … just how good can it get? Here are 40-plus minutes of pure joy, taken from a crystal-clear, chamber music-like Danish club performance of 2016. The press release describes Pieces as “the meeting of two generations: the experienced and mature (trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg and guitarist Bjarne Roupé) and the young and ready (bassist Anton Langebaek and percussionist Benjamin Barfod)”. One could speak also of a meeting of genres: modern jazz classics, the subtlest jazz-rock, the folk-limned and the freely cast.
The result showcases both individual playing and group interaction of the highest order. Throughout, Barod is a model of tasty touch and finessed colour, while Roupé joins Mikkelborg in evincing a consummate sense of when to mix or move between pure melodic line and atmospheric electronic wash.
The programme is perfectly balanced and sequenced, with long-familiar pieces (Naima, Nature Boy and, albeit to lesser degree, Jim Pepper’s Witchi-Tai-To, known to many through the Jan Garbarek / Bobo Stenson Group’s 1973 version) sitting seamlessly alongside the Swedish folk strains of Saudi and the now eruptive, now brooding episodes of the freely worked yet ultimately lyrical title track, where Langebaek’s concluding, now considered, now cooking solo pizzicato lines shine.
I say “long-familiar pieces” but all three such items here are made distinctly fresh, even as the character of the originals is respected. The theme of Witchi-Tai-To only emerges at the end of the tenderly rendered piece, with the interaction of Roupé and Langebaek as compelling as Mikkelborg’s final, spaciously cast and ever-building solo.
Eden Ahbez’s Nature Boy and Coltrane’s Naima are equally refigured, their striking shifts in dynamics, voicings and rhythmic impetus so vivid as to invite immediate re-listening. As indeed does the whole of this surpassing set.
Witchi-Tai-To; Naima; Saudi; Pieces; Nature Boy (42.26)
Mikkelborg (t, flh, effects); Roupé (elg, effects); Langebaek (b); Barfod (d, pc, gubal, sansula). Naestved, 27 October 2016.