Niclas Knudsen: Le Funk Mystique

The Danish guitarist's latest is notionally simple jazz-rock but weaves layers of complexity, drawing on blues, reggae and Eastern tonalities


The title-track opener, first heard on Danish guitarist Niclas Knudsen’s Radio Timbuktu (Bignote, 2014), could be mistaken for out and out funk-rock augmented by playful percussion but there’s a distinct sense of warming-up three quarters of the way through whilst doggedly not abandoning the frequently repeated head. The overdubbing on Super Frisky and the superficial simplicity belies its actual complexity as it piles on layers of lines. Hip Shabaz invokes a distinctly Eastern vibe whilst maintaining an infectiously bouncy rock beat.

The multi-tracked Funk Bulgare displays Knudsen’s compositional and arranging skills weaving ostensible funkiness around complex fast-moving melodies. In contrast Sweet Solitude is a relaxed, unhurried bluesy tune replete with legato lines.

The 16-bar blues of Bad Beauty is so stylised it leans towards the parodic. There’s a foot-tapping reggae number too, Jelly Bomb, which sees Knudsen at the peak of his versatility. A majestic introduction to the harmonically rich Blue Tornado is powered by Johnny Winter-like high-energy guitar.

Far Away Highway is perhaps the only track to come close to Knudsen’s excellent previous trio album Times Revisited (Bignote, 2021) where the emphasis is placed on lyricism rather than hooks. It’s succeeded by the riffy and unapologetically rocky Nanoman. However, the closer, Fanfare Mystique, is as appealing as its near namesake opener, adorned with more lightning-fast Eastern overtones.

An alumnus of Berklee College of Music, Knudsen’s recorded with the likes of Dave Liebman, John Tchicai and Adam Nussbaum. His great strengths include his eclectic writing married with fluid virtuosity. So, whilst Le Funk Mystique purports to be simplistic jazz-rock, it isn’t at all and merits serious attention at all times.

Le Funk Mystique; Super Frisky; Hip Shabaz; Funk Bulgare; Sweet Solitude; Bad Beauty; Jelly Bomb; Blue Tornado; Far Away Highway; Nanoman; Fanfare Mystique (41.48)
Knudsen (elg, kyb, b); Frederik Damsgaard (b); Mads Andersen (d). Copenhagen, no date, but c. 2021-2.
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