Since their debut with Last Things, reviewed in my post of 18/09/19, Hauge and Young have toured to clubs and festivals in Japan, South Korea, the USA, Germany, Denmark and France. I’m glad their intimate brand of chamber jazz is proving successful and Chasing Sunsets is mostly an engaging, at times compelling follow-up to their debut disc (hear the haunting, almost Eberhard Weber-like coda to My Ideal). But I have some reservations.
While Last Things dealt in good part with the archetypal subjects of love and joy, loss and longing, the programme was refreshingly varied and featured some lively and diversely projected scat from Hauge. Here things are more even-tempered.
There is a welcome guest appearance from that excellent Norwegian saxophonist Knut Riisnaes, who offers a typically lucid and rounded solo on the meditative waltz that is Wake Up; and the in part multi-tracked vocals work well on both Lovesong and the title track, the latter’s unforced celebration of the simple but truly valuable things of life carrying no small conviction.
Overall, the interaction of Hauge’s light voice and precise yet airy phrasing with Young’s laidback (and sonically diverse) guitar offers deftly turned, occasionally rhythmically energising pleasure: hear High Alert, the Latinate Nobody Else But Me, with its gentle scat from Hauge, and Young’s assertive and finely developed solo on Time. As on the first disc, there are some modest yet resonant vocals from the deep-voiced guitarist, in duet with Hauge (sample The Ceiling).
However, if Last Things struck me as “a tempered but potent burner of an album” Chasing Sunsets is to my ears at times a touch too winsome for comfort. Listening to the heartfelt but somewhat cloying versions of Someone To Watch Over Me and You Are So Beautiful, I began to wonder how soon such gently turned Nordic song may risk inducing ennui rather than enjoyment in the listener.
You could argue that it was brave of Hauge and Young to offer a fresh take on Aretha Franklin’s Prayer. Certainly, the arrangement is striking, with its emergent dampened minimalist bass ostinato figure and brief, blues-touched solo from Young. But for me the largely inward intensity of this version served chiefly to underline the roots-rich soulful depth and expansive, rolling affirmation of the original. I don’t know if Hauge and Young are planning a third album, but if they are, I for one would welcome at least a little salt and pepper in the mix.
(1) Chasing Sunsets; The Lovesong; Nobody Else But Me; (2) Wake Up; (1) High Alert; How Can I Advise You; I Say A Little Prayer; The Ceiling; Someone To Watch Over Me; Time; My Ideal; You Are So Beautiful (50.44)
(1) Hauge (v); Young elg, g, v). (2) as (1) plus Knut Riisnaes (ts).
Losen Records OSR 008