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Kathrine Windfeld Big Band, Latency (Stunt Records)
Kathrine Winfeld’s second album further establishes the 30-year-old Dane in the vanguard of new arranger-composers and bandleaders. Her young, experienced, adventurous musicians from Denmark, Sweden and Norway may be considered an all-star Scandinavian aggregation, but not in the sense that Ms. Winfeld’s music dwells on Scandinavian themes. Rather, her work is in a league with bands like those of Maria Schneider, Darcy James Argue, Christian McBride and John Beasley’s Monkestra—outfits unafraid to be eclectic and eccentric but insistent on values growing out of the mainstream tradition. Ms. Winfeld’s crew maintains swing even when the saxophones in the piece called “Double Fleisch” verge on free jazz a la Chicago’s AACM of the 1960s. Then she unleashes the intrepid trombone soloist Göran Abelli, who is unrestrained, as he was in the 2016 Windfeld album Aircraft.
Ms. Winfeld expresses a softer side of her conception in “Leaving Portland.” The piece opens with her subdued piano. The brass builds intensity before making way for a brief, lyrical, flugelhorn solo by the young Norwegian Magnus Oseth. The composer told me when we spoke in Sweden a couple of years ago that she has never been to Portland, Oregon, or Portland, Maine. In a recent email interview about the piece, she explained, “I just liked the sound of the words! The drama and melancholy of “port,” “land” and “leaving.”
Her orchestration beautifully captures both elements, which also underlie “Roadmovie,” with a Windfeld piano introduction supported by the Swedish bassist Johannes Vaht, who solos later in the piece, as does the Danish soprano saxophonist Jakob Lundbak, with his splendid reedy tone. The trombones introduce “Wasp,” but the wasp-in-chief is the Swedish tenor saxophonist Ida Karlsson, whose buzzing, slap-tongue notes and agitated delivery highlight the piece before it subsides beneath a passage orchestrated for reeds, brass and rhythm section.
“December Elegy” brings back Oseth on flugelhorn and Ms. Windfeld at the piano. More of the leader’s smooth orchestral textures encompass imaginative harmonies across the sections.
Occasionally, there are albums that give you more with each hearing. This is one of them.
From last summer’s Copenhagen Jazz Festival, here is the Windfeld Big Band with a live version of “Wasp.” At the top, go to your piano and strike A above middle C to find if they are in tune…or if your piano is in tune. The band members are listed at the end of the video.
I was first exposed to jazz while learning to play chess with my uncles. They would play smooth jazz, and then switch up to more standard types of jazz. But, when they played Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, I was
hooked and I haven't looked back.