Emil de Waal: Vente

The past and the relative present, from Ellington to Charlie Haden, meet in the hands of a Danish group combining clarinet, Hammond and lap steel


I very much appreciated the quality of the eponymous debut release on April Records by the Danish piano trio that is Little North. JJ colleague Derek Ansell has been equally impressed by the output of this small Danish independent: see, for example, Derek’s recent reviews of (very different) April Records releases by tenor saxophonists Andreas Toftemark and Cecilie Strange.

With Vente (Wait) Danish drummer Emil de Waal (born 1967) has helped shape another distinctive cracker for the label. As is customary with April Records, production values are excellent, from Thomas Vang’s warm and clear recording, Lis Hooge-Hansen’s atmospheric cover art and Enrico Andreis’s lucid design to Jens Jørn Gjedsted’s authoritative and informative English-language sleeve note.

A musician of fine time and taste – and wide experience – de Vaal here leads a special quartet, full of character. Its members have worked together, on and off, for a good part of the past decade or so and evince an exquisite group understanding. As consistently compelling as it is totally enjoyable, the music is tinged with a soulful nostalgia – and yet, would seem as timeless as tomorrow’s dawn.

The mellow programme is delivered with a refreshingly cast and subtly deployed instrumentation, including clarinet and electric guitar, Hammond organ, lap-steel guitar and celeste. Whether you love Ellington or Charlie Haden, Edmond Hall or Putte Wickman, the many delights on offer should warm your heart as much as they get fingers clicking and body moving.

Sample the poised and relaxed folkish beauty of the opening Peg (where 84-year-old Nyskaer and the much younger Ljunggren interact beautifully on clarinet), the sombre, guitar-limned and ever-building resonance of Charlie Haden’s First Song (which comes close to the power of the definitive version cut by Stan Getz and Kenny Barron), or the relaxed fun of the shuffling and funky, brushes-driven Ventemedister and the lovely, Eastern-inflected measures of the gentle Wuhan Waltz – composed by Ljunggren following a pre-Covid tour of China.

Recorded at the 2018 Copenhagen Jazz Festival, the back-beat drum-and-organ groove which is given to Ellington’s Thunder fires up a suitably juicy coda. All in all, Vente furnishes delicious proof of the regenerative dialectic of past and present which assures the best of jazz its enduring appeal. Beautiful!

Peg O’ My Heart; First Song (For Ruth); Ventemedister; Holgers Vuggevise; Uffes Tappenstreg; Wuhan Waltz; Music To Watch Girls By; Biblioteksvals; *Such Sweet Thunder (39.55)
de Waal (d, pc); Gustaf Ljunggren (elg, lap-steel g, cl, mandola, cel, mar); Elith “ Nulle” Nykjaer (cl); Dan Hammond (Hammond org). Copenhagen, June 2020 & *summer 2018.
April Records APR087CD