Cecilie Strange: Beyond

Danish tenor saxophonist leads her quartet in a set of reflections over simple harmonic backgrounds at tempos rarely above 70 bpm


Following studies with saxophonists Hans Ulrik in Odense and Chris Cheek in New York, the Danish tenor saxophonist and composer Cecilie Strange has come to make some of the most beautiful music of the past few years. Don’t take my word for it: check out fellow JJ contributor Derek Ansell’s appreciative reviews of Strange’s Blue and Blikan, both released on Denmark’s excellent April Records and both featuring the same superbly attuned post-Motian rhythm section which is to be heard on this, Strange’s latest release.

Fittingly, Derek supplies a fine, wide-ranging sleeve-note for Beyond. Here is music which, while rooted in the modern Nordic lyrical tradition (and with Marilyn Mazur associate, Swedish guest vocalist Josefine Cronholm, offering understated yet potent contributions to two distinctive pieces) establishes and sustains its own musical and poetic identity.

Above all, this has to do with Strange’s melodic sensibility, her wonderful, rounded yet “open” tone and congruent patience in the key matters of “breathing” phrasing and rhythmic momentum. I can’t help but think that Lester Young would have loved Strange’s laid-back assurance, her dynamically adroit, floating yet resonant lines and overall sensitivity to space.

Strange can move and groove (in her own register) when she so wishes, as tracks like the Dance variations on Blue and Blikan attest. But her signature strength lies in a practically Taoist-like spiritual tenderness such as can bring one to tears: sample The Alices Of My Life or Where My Heart Lives. For me, Beyond offers the most subtly crafted music, of lasting musical character and soulful import. How I would love to hear it in concert!

(1) The Alices Of My Life; (2) Byssan Lull; (1) Where My Heart Lives; Midnight Sun Upon Saltvaersøya; (2) New Life; (1) The Great Grand (45.08)
(1) Strange (ts); Peter Rosendal (p); Thommy Andersson (b); Jakob Høyer (d).
(2) as (1) plus Josefine Cronholm (v). Copenhagen, 22 August 2022.
April Records APR112CD