CD REVIEW: Kenneth Dahl Knudsen - We'll Meet In The Rain

Kenneth Dahl Knudsen - We'll Meet In The Rain
(Two Rivers Records TRR 008. CD review by Adrian Pallant)

There is something profoundly enriching about Danish double bassist Kenneth Dahl Knudsen’s new orchestral jazz release. Full of vibrant jazz episodes as well as restrained, emotional tension, this is original, often filmic music which indubitably wears its heart on its sleeve.

Having already worked with artists such as John Scofield, Aaron Parks and Gilad Hekselman, Knudsen explains he harboured a strong desire to share his own compositions which are inspired by unspecified encounters with people and their personal stories, as well as the expansive, natural landscapes of his homeland. In fact, the bassist’s analogy is that we often meet people through other people, “like the drops of rain running down a window; meeting new drops; splitting into new groups; forming beautiful patterns.” Hence the album title, We’ll Meet In The Rain.

To realise his ambition, he gathered together nineteen musicians from across Europe (essentially a mid-sized big band congruously fused with string quartet and wordless vocalist); and this collaboration has resulted in an engaging, hour-plus journey. The notable variety of the arrangements draws the attention more and more as they become familiar and, rather than constantly taking the spotlight, Knudsen generally integrates his own playing into these accessible, luminous arcs of sound directed by conductor Malte Schiller.

Like much of his music, opener Light Unfolds awakens to feature a memorable, horn-clustered theme, made all the more attractive by Marie Séférian’s flexible vocalisations; and rich improvisation is invited from both trumpet and tenor sax. Perhaps it’s Knudsen’s detailing which defines his broad imaginings so distinctively – the dynamic ebb and flow of ideas, the clarity of his bass lines, the unexpected sectional turnings; but his touch is certainly masterful. Krig og Kaerlighed possesses a highly-charged earnestness – easily soundtrack material; and the swirling flute and plucked rhythms of Dapo, gyrating with crisp, animated big band textures, combine to produce fizzing, solo-enhanced grooving (and the snap into fast piano swing is delectable).

The Camera Man is tender, Séférian’s affecting, plaintive vocal drifting above choral simplicity, brass band-style arrangements, strings and piano, before building to closing-title, cinemascopic breadth; and centrepiece A Merry Song (at over ten minutes’ duration) has a similar impact, Séférian again creating beautifully inflected vocal colour, plus an enchantingly lyrical violin oasis amidst the orchestral solidity. Mettelody features the most achingly emotive high double bass melody from Knudsen over string quartet and piano, conjuring images of gossamer morning mists, whilst electric bass-propelled Victoria’s World positively bustles to its relentless tempo and fabulously spirited horn syncopation.

Title track We’ll Meet In The Rain – a folksy lament with a pinprick of light at the end of the tunnel, and subtly reminiscent of both Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel – proceeds winsomely with sensitive violin and trombone soloing; and end-piece Tucked In is quietly triumphant, again with such absorbing, shifting orchestration.

With its ethos of providing a platform for artists to release brave, unrestricted new music, Alya Marquardt's Two Rivers Records is proving itself in these early stages to be a consistent source of surprises. This album is a particularly rewarding one.

Adrian Pallant is a proofreader, musician and jazz writer who also reviews at his own site

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