Snorre Kirk: Top Dog

Copenhagen-based drummer revisits the swing era in a sextet including saxophonists Stephen Riley and Michael Blicher


Eleven years on from his debut album as a leader titled Blues Modernism, Danish drummer Snorre Kirk continues to reinvigorate traditional forms of jazz in an exciting and creative way, bringing on board notable friends including tenor saxophonist Stephen Riley amongst fellow Danish band members.

Each track is composed by Kirk and the programme incorporates a good balance of 12-bar blues, swingers and ballads. A good example of the album’s mood is Easy Roller, which finds Michael Blicher on alto saxophone playing a simple blues melody that brings the sound of Johnny Hodges into the 21st century.

Another example of history-digging on Top Dog is that guitarist Mads Kjølby was inspired by Count Basie discovering Freddie Green in 1937. Kirk also made it a priority to directly reference other popular tunes in his compositions. He mentions how Sy Oliver’s Yes, Indeed! sparked his tune Bring Me Home, while the uptempo Swing Point suggests Jimmy Giuffre’s Four Brothers.

American tenorist Stephen Riley returns for his third recording with Kirk. His Websterish tone perfectly matches the project. He is seemingly unbothered by more contemporary saxophonists and sticks to traditional influences.

The album begins and ends with a 12-bar blues – make of that what you will. But there’s no questioning Kirk’s vision here. He has produced a well-mastered and arranged set of compositions that I’d be keen to see live. Any artist who chooses to include a dog on the front of their record receives instant kudos.  

Working The Night Shift; Top Dog; On Late Nights; Bring It Home; Showtime; Meditations In Blue; Swing Point; Easy Roller; Yesteryear; Boogie Rider (38.30)
Stephen Riley (ts); Michael Blicher (ts, as); Magnus Hjorth (p); Mads Kjølby (g); Anders Fjeldsted (b); Kirk (d). Copenhagen, November 2021.
Stunt Records STULP 22131