Jacob Anderskov

Pådansk
ILK Music ILK 125 CD

Proving that roots investigation and reshuffling aren’t only taking place within the American song book tradition, Danish pianist Jacob Anderskov has arranged 11 of his country’s traditional ballads to give them 21st Century resonance.

Not that the pianist – who has participated in sessions involving everything from a duo with Latin American percussionist Airto Moreira, to those involving local combos such as Toxicum, Lovendale and his own various-sized bands – rearranges the material so that it’s self-consciously post-modern. However, considering that his basic trio here involves two drummers, while most other tunes feature a vamping five-piece horn section, the sounds are a lot different from what you would hear on a Sunday night in a Copenhagen beer garden or dance pavilion.

To be honest, Anderskov, who admits that “these songs have been following me since my early childhood”, seems most comfortable playing legato and moderato. Thus, it’s often up to his arrangements and his sidepeople to reupholster the compositions into Danish modern. Drum team Anders Mogensen, who has recorded folk style material with traditional fiddler Harald Haugaard, and Peter Ole Jørgensen, who has partnered outside players such as German saxophonist Peter Brötzmann and electric bassist Peter Friis Nielsen, are the greatest help.

But when the two percussionists limit accompaniment to sweeping brush strokes or low-frequency drum-top pops, Anderskov’s innate romanticism predominates. At least on those tracks his voicing and dynamics resemble those of Bill Evans or Wynton Kelly, though at their least muscular. Without knowledge of their back stories, in fact, a couple of the tunes seem contrafacts of “As Time Goes By” and “Someday My Prince Will Come”. More notable are those tauter pieces goosed by the horn section and with bassist Nils Davidsen along for added rhythmic resonance.

“Sne (der er ingenting i verden så stille sne)” for instance, features a buzzing bass line arching over contrapuntal choir-like harmonies from the horns. Before a trumpet fanfare and further unison work ends the track, trombonist Peter Dahlgren and clarinetist Anders Banke have unrolled duple counterpoint. Similarly, “Nordvost (sneflokke kommer vrimlende)”, which features measured percussion rhythms and time-shifting along with bass scratches eventually opens up as if it was a big band riff number; one overset with scorchy flutter tongued tenor from Ned Ferm as well. Climax comes with gnarled split tones from the horns and almost disco-like drum beats.

Perhaps the most memorable piece, however, is “Det lyser over agres felt’. Here the tune’s basic nursery rhyme-like structure is subverted with snare drum rolls, disintegrating split tones from alto saxophonist Laura Toxærd and framed lip kisses from trumpeter Jonas Müller. Eventually the tune is resolved, as polyphonic variations of the theme are played out over vamping horns and bass thumps.

For non-Danes hearing this finely tempered disc, the idea remains that Pådansk is merely yet another variant on the methods and material Anderskov is experimenting with during the initial years of his musical career. In fact, the CD may even sound more exotic to non-Danes, then those who’ve been hearing these tunes since birth. There’s also no explanation offered as to why four of the songs have additional titles in parenthesis. But that may a matter for linguists or lyricists not listeners.

On the evidence here though, Pådansk stands on its own as a mature – albeit conservative show. Should he be able to accelerate the staccato expressions on show here, and mute the overt romanticism that sometimes drags down some of the selections, Anderskov may yet forge an inimitable piano style – Danish or otherwise.

— Ken Waxman

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Track Listing: 1. Den blå anemone 2. Sænk kun dit hoved 3. Sommervise (Du danske sommer jeg elsker dig) 4. Det lyser over agres felt 5. Sensommersang (Septembers himmel er så blå 6. Sig nærmer tiden 7. Sne (der er ingenting i verden så stille sne) 8. Nordvost (sneflokke kommer vrimlende) 9. Det er idag et vejr 10. Den danske sommer (Danmark, nu blunder der, lyse nat) 11. Nu er jorg og himmel stille

Personnel: Jacob Anderskov (piano); Anders Mogensen (drums) and Peter Ole Jørgensen (drums[except for 5]) plus Henriette Groth (clarinet)*; and Jonas Müller (trumpet and cornet); Peter Dahlgren (trombone); Anders Banke (clarinet, bass clarinet and alto saxophone); Laura Toxærd (alto saxophone); Ned Ferm (tenor saxophone and clarinet) and Nils Davidsen (bass)