Ole Matthiessen: Social Distancing Blues

Copenhagen-based octet plays inventive, smooth yet driving modern jazz with plenty of solos but no showboating

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Matthiessen, like the rest of us, including many musicians, spent the 2020 Covid lockdown working at home in isolation. He used the time to beneficial effect composing contemporary music and making fresh arrangements of some of his earlier compositions. The result is this album.

Four new pieces were welded with nine earlier charts, and he gathered together a compatible sextet to record them. Three were expanded to use a seven-piece unit with the addition of conga player Eliel Lazo.

Social Distancing Blues, the title track, kicks us off with a smooth, lightly swinging modern blues which effectively sets the mood for the entire CD. Bob Rockwell plays a laid-back, slightly squeezed sounding tenor sax in coolish mode and the alto, Jan Zum Vohrde, has a similar approach. The pianist leader has a light touch which is melodic and tasteful. Bass and drums drive crisply without any unnecessary flourishes or bombs. In other words, this is smooth, driving modern jazz that is inventive without being over showy.

Another Me is an attractive line with cool saxes, trumpeter Bolberg favouring a softly lyrical approach and it ends with a tasty drum solo. The rhythm section performs well throughout but particularly on Summer Breeze where drummer Streenberg and conga specialist Lazo fashion a tidy rhythmic duet that is neatly give and take, without competitive showboating.

Mostly medium tempo, this music is inventive, controlled and melodic all through with plenty of well-used solo space for everybody. Two tracks have a South African flavour, most pronounced on South African Sunrise. No surprises there then. No big surprises anywhere, in fact – rather, simply good, improvised solos and tight ensemble work from beginning to end.

Discography
Social Distancing Blues; Another Me; Surivanoroc; Summer Breeze; Careena; Ikke Noget Endnu; Brother Yusef; Autumn Song; Simple Things; White And Blues; Happy Ending; South African Sunrise (67.22)
Henrik Bolberg (t, flh); Zan Zum Vohrde (as); Bob Rockwell (ts); Lis Wessberg (tb); Ole Matthiessen (p); Rune Fog-Nielsen (b); Ole Streenberg (d); Eliel Lazo (pc). Copenhagen, 23 & 24 August 2021.
Stunt STUCD 21112