Jazz and other things

I am sure the news that there is an association of composers on the Faroe Islands is not a surprise for you (especially, if you constantly read my blog). You will not be also surprised with the fact that small, but self-respecting country has its own symphonic orchestra. However, despite the fact that I know a lot about the Faroese music, I am still surprised with that. Till now I still think that concentration of creative minds in this place in the Atlantic ocean is immensely high. Here is another portion of my astonishment in five pieces.

Kári Bæk «Afturundirgerð (Cross-Current)» (Tutl, 2005)

Listen to the album on Spotify.

An ambitious group of 11 people named Aldubáran performs the music of the Faroese composer Kári Bæk. Despite status “here and now” his music does not take its lead from contemporaneity making music’s authors follow the current interests and create something. It is more like a game of classics. However, for it is very hard to listen to “Afturundirgerð (Cross-Current)”. Simpleness is out of Bæk’s favour. Out of seven compositions on the LP only “March” (by the way, an absolutely fantastic overture with pulsating nerves) and “Elegy” do not scare with desperation and do not challenge nerves with violin solo. However, who said that the academic music should be easy?

Dávur Juul Magnussen «Cesurae» (Tutl, 2014)

The trombone player Dávur Juul Magnussen with like-minded musicians and sound engineer Jónas Bloch Danielsen came to a rock shelter to record an album. An idea, as well as its implementation, is amazing. 13 compositions (among which there are compositions of Pyotr Tchaikovsky and an English composer Henry Purcell) are like 13 mantras which can make you go into nirvana. Naturally, as I see it, “material” of the LP is incredibly interesting even without the rock shelter. However, especially under the sound of the sea trombones and trumpets, reflecting with echo from the rocks, fill the space around with even more mystic sound. “Cesurae” is an unique example of how he academic music may sound in a modern way without any avant-garde manoeuvres and amplified techniques, and even more natural than in a philharmonic hall.

Alda Magna «Alda Magna» (Tutl, 2014)

Listen to the album on Spotify.

The project «Alda Magna» with the composition “Små Men Mange” which opens the album sets on the wrong track. It seems that you listen to a kind of synthesis (by the way, a very successful one) of academic music and jazz. However, allusions with something recondite and mournful scatter fast enough. Listening to “Hypnomelodisk Kædedans” you finally realize that it is, most likely, fusion in the spirit of the band Yggdrasil, which we are already familiar with. The main character and the author of the majority of compositions – the piano player Kim Kristensen plays not only with ethnic music, but more with different jazz styles (for a good cause, there are a lot of means of expression there). The principal mood of the LP is rather steady and lyric. However, sometimes music (take, for instance, “Changing Winds”) rolls downhill like a rock. Certainly, Kristensen, the guitar player Leivur Thomsen, bass guitarist Bjarki Meitil and the drummer Rógvi Á Rógvu promptly catch it and return to their still condition, but particularly in the moments of the uncontrolled music-making you like listening to Alda Magna more and more, however, it seems that it could not be much.

Arnold Ludvig Sextet «Voyages» (Tutl, 2013)

Listen to the album on Spotify.

For the composer Arnold Ludvig this album has become a sort of a soundtrack of his journey from the Faroe Islands to Copenhagen. From the childhood he has been dreaming of going to the capital of Denmark and, curiously enough, his dream has turned into not only a real voyage, but also purely Danish LP, where there is practically nothing Faroese. Even musicians are mainly Danish. However, one should not wait any revelations from the LP. It is just a piece of good and skillfully performed work which has much bass (that is not a surprise given that Ludvig plays it), and a bit less, but still much of vibrant flute and persuasive saxophone. Yet, despite of all the advantages, compositions of the album “Voyages” seem so sugary that it could do with some dilution with something Faroese, for example, or just something “sour”.

Magnus "Magnus" (Tutl, 2010)

The album of Magnus Johannessen is at first sight similar in mood with the LP of Arnold Ludvig. However, listening to “Amanda's Tango” (perhaps, the most unexpected composition of the album) you start to understand that it is that sourness which “Voyages” lacks. There is no place for pomposity. It is very intimate and incredibly touching work with lightsome and argute piano sections (“ECM Klokka”) and the chic winds (“Skýming” and “Mjørkin”). Curiously enough, grieve from Magnus seems more musically alluring. Melancholy suits him. “Magnus” is a perfect soundtrack to the walk on the Faroe Islands in autumn or better in winter (however, in any other place of the world there will be the same effect, I guess). It is good to be nostalgic listening to such music, remembering gone past with all its joys and sorrows.

Reviewer by Anton Kovalsky.

Translated by Marina Zlatoustova.

Russian version reviewer.