Review by Brad Walseth
The first truly great jazz album of 2008 is upon us and it comes from a Trans-Atlantic collective of musicians from New York, Norway and Denmark (which accounts for their name - "NYNDK"). Founding members Danish pianist Soren Moller, Norwegian saxophonist Ole Mathisen and American trombonist Chris Washburne, are joined by cutting-edge artists, bassist Per Mathisen and drummer Scott Neumann in this fascinating and highly satisfying release (Nordic Disruption). Music this rich, inventive and exciting simply explodes out of the speakers and into the ears/brain of the listener with a vibrancy so often lacking in today's music.
Ole Mathisen and Washburne work together in Washburne's SYTOS band, whose "Land of Nod" recording ranks highly among my favorite recordings of recent years (see our review here). It is no surprise that they work so well together on this recording, while highly creative pianist Soren Moller adds yet another melodic element to this colorful collage. It also doesn't surprise that these artists received a prestigious Danish grant to arrange modern composers' works (Charles Ives, Edvard Grieg, Carl Nielsen, George Perle, Arne Norheim and "infinite tone row" composer Per Norgaard) for jazz quintet. Based on their own original compositions, these musicians are quite familiar with the harmonic intricacies of modern classical as well as jazz idioms.
Mathisen's saxophone is the primary lead instrument here and his playing is so deliciously clear and cool that it resembles frost hanging in the air. Meanwhile, Washburne has emerged as perhaps my favorite trombone player of recent years and he doesn’t disappoint in this performance. His lines, while always inventive and technically superb, add to the music in the very best sense and his powerful solos never fail to delight. Moller is a true find on the piano, with a unique playing style that constantly astonishes with its sudden bursts of tones; while bassist Per Mathisen is an active experimenter on the bass, who adds meat to the presentation both melodically and rhythmically. Guest drummer Scott Neumann proves to be a perfect fit for the sound the group is trying to achieve and impels the music forward with energy and passion.
Songs range from modern post-bop ("Histronics," "Nordic Disruption," "Nimbulus") to avant garde ("Derivative") to melodic balladry ("Backward Glance," "Brooklyn") to funk ("Elefantens Vuggevise" - The Elephant's Lullaby), but with the added benefit of the members' immersion in varied musical genre that leads to greater harmonic diversity. "Blade Runner" centers the album with its rising feel and energetic spirit, while there is even a version of "I Hear a Rhapsody," that is pretty unrecognizable, but no less fun. I only wish more of the jazz world had the imagination and talent NYNDK displays on this recording. I strongly recommend "Nordic Disruption" to any jazz fan looking for music that will wake them up and take their breath away.