Mads La Cour’s Almuji- Quartet
(WhyPlayJazz RS019. CD review by Mike Collins)
Almugi, says Mads La Cour’s publicity, is an ancient Scandinavian word referring to ‘Free men of the Kingdom, noted for their goodness’. The Danish trumpeter and composer has released a flurry of recordings on the German based WhyPlayJazz label with a varying cast of free men. There’s a duo, a Big Band as download only and, on this CD, a Quartet playing his compositions with a freewheeling, now tight now loose approach.
In addition to Mads himself, the quartet comprises a strong group of Danish players with well established reputations. Lars Greve is on clarinets, Andreas Lang on bass and Kapser Tom Christiansen on drums. The line-up with no chordal instrument, group improvisations with open sections over pulsing riffs, interval leaping themes with horns locked in tandem all give the music more than a nod in the direction of jazz that steers a line between tightly choreographed themes and less structured improvisations. There are references in plenty of other directions with folky melodies bursting through, tight grooves emerging and occasional more moody introspection.
Long John has a loosely delivered twisting theme which is unravelled collectively, Christansen keeping the momentum up with tumbling clatter and squeals from the cymbals. Spam gives La Cour space to work out over a pulsing, rolling bass and drums before a choppy staccato line, locking trumpet and clarinet together, separates bass and then clarinet episodes. Allmogen and Emilie in their different ways bring out a more melancholic side of the leader and a sweeter sound over chant like themes, Greve produces an anguished keening solo on I Jules . Araber and Sir Dance – a – lot develop into more grooving workouts.
This is engaging music, each piece with a distinct sense of development, but what really holds the attention is the group sound and interplay. Trumpet and clarinet support and twist around each other constantly without ever sounding contrived, The drums and bass maintain an unflagging energy even when playing fractured and broken rhythms. This is a very fine set from top class players and it makes me want to check our what Mads has been up to with his other ‘ Free Men of the Kingdom’
Mike Collins is a pianist and writer based in Bath, who runs the jazzyblogman site. Twitter @jazzyblogman