Per Mollehoj, Kirk Knuffke, Thommy Andersson: ’S Wonderful

Guitar, cornet and bass make early music fresh again by treating it in a style that is free, contemporary - and melodic

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These three played together at a Copenhagen jazz festival and continued jamming together at bassist Andersson’s apartment. The idea was to play some early music, from before 1930, and combine traditional collective improvisation with free, contemporary stylings.

Knuffke feels Dixieland music has a direct connection to free improvisation and this release makes sense of his idea. He is a remarkable cornet player, having a big, robust sound that he uses effectively in his improvised stylings, producing a burnished, lyrical flow to his lines.

On Beale Street Blues he takes a vocal in traditional manner and follows up with a cornet solo that moves ominously from New Orleans to present day New York. You can sense the connection in his playing although it is difficult to describe accurately. This music should be heard to be fully appreciated. Bass and guitar link up extremely well with the cornet lines, swapping the lead between them.

Elizabeth Town is a one chord-blues with two interludes which the cornet player dedicates to Howlin’ Wolf. It is simple, basic, one-chord improvisation in which he summons up the early blues man with a rich, sonorous tone and a few appropriate slurs. First Draft mixes early traditional with contemporary improvised lines. Guitar, bass, and cornet swap phrases to good effect throughout.

Same But Different involves, in Knuffke’s words, “taking the melody from First Draft and squeezing something else out of it”. The three musicians succeed admirably. Ellington’s Just Squeeze Me and Gershwin’s ’S Wonderful get similar ancient and modern treatments. Knuffke was influenced by the Sun Ra version of the latter piece.

St Louis Blues brings back the Knuffke the vocalist, but it also features fresh guitar, cornet and bass lines. Although this is a basic trio without drums, the three players mesh exceedingly well together on all these tracks and offer a fresh look at both early and late jazz formats. It is very melodic, original and most respectful of the jazz tradition.

Discography
Beale Street Blues; Elizabeth Town; Same But Different; Just Squeeze Me; ‘S Wonderful; Can’t See For Looking; First Draft; St. Louis Blues; A Brother And A Sister (40.38)
Mollehoj (elg); Knuffke (c); Andersson (b). Copenhagen, July and August 2021.
Stunt 21102