Sarah Elgeti Quintet – Into the Open – Your Favourite Jazz yfjcd 020, 61:10 ****:
(Sarah Elgeti – tenor & alto saxophone, flute, percussion; Marianne Markmann-Eriksen – alto & baritone saxophone; Christian Bluhme Hansen – guitar, percussion; Jens Kristian Andersen – bass; Thomas Præstegaard – drums, percussion; Ben Besiakov – Fender Rhodes (track 4), piano (tracks 8, 10); Mikkel Uhrenholdt – alto saxophone (tracks 4, 8); Magnus Poulsen – alto saxophone (track 8))
Into the Open is the auspicious debut from German-born, Denmark-based saxophonist/flutist Sarah Elgeti and her multi-horn quintet. Elgeti is not well known inside or outside of Europe, but hearing her initial offering, Elgeti is on her way. This hour-long, 11-track program (featuring all Elgeti originals) favorably flows from the cooler tones of the so-called Nordic sound (think Jan Garbarek or others on the ECM label) to 1970s-styled funk jazz, and from brooding elegy to a modern, rhythmic remix effort. Throughout, Elgeti’s tenor or alto sax leads the way, often partnered with Marianne Markmann-Eriksen’s alto or baritone sax. Filling out the rest of the quintet is guitarist Christian Bluhme Hansen, bassist Jens Kristian Andersen and drummer Thomas Præstegaard. There are also guest spots on three tracks.
Elgeti embarks with the all-too brief melancholic opener “Home,” which presents Elgeti’s well-rounded tenor sax playing with sparse backing from bass and drums. “Home” embodies a subdued course for commencing the album, but Elgeti’s approach tends toward steady build-up rather than an intense offensive, which works well in the context of her compositional design. The entire quintet enters on the lightly Latinized, mid-tempo “Bossa Among the Trees,” where Elgeti (on tenor) broadens her arranging so the sound of the five piece elevates into something close to a small big band. Elgeti and Markmann-Eriksen (on alto) trade sax lines and occasionally converge together to push the melody further outward. Hansen adds sometimes bluesy, sometimes slightly dissonant electric guitar dynamics, while Præstegaard also displays some excellent interplay with the horns. The band gets soulful on the funkified “Downstairs,” where guest keyboardist Ben Besiakov lays down a groove on his Fender Rhodes, while guest alto saxophonist Mikkel Uhrenholdt escalates the horn section into an accomplished three-piece frontline. Præstegaard maintains the funky beat without losing swing.
There is an emotional ambiance to several numbers. The plaintive “Trying to Forget” has a mostly straightforward 1980s contemporary stance broken by instants of disharmony, which is eloquently visualized and explained in a drama-tinged video which has a supernatural surprise ending. [Great video, but what’s the supernatural part?…Ed.] The atmospheric, folkish “Out in the Fields” has a similar strategy, heightened by a poetic melody, Hansen’s nylon-string acoustic guitar and Markmann-Eriksen’s alto sax, which interlaces subtly with Elgeti’s sax. Nature takes root again on the fluid “Ringe I Vand,” which translates from Danish as “Ringing in Water,” or loosely as “Let it Rain.” Elgeti changes to flute while Hansen and Markmann-Eriksen keep the tone earthy, while marimba provides an indirect link to Afro-Cuban rhythms. There is a luminescent characteristic whenever the higher register flute and lower register alto sax mingle. The flute/alto sax collaboration is heard yet again on the wistful “Clouds,” which has another mainstream arrangement. Mikkel Uhrenholdt and Magnus Poulsen’s twinned alto saxes, alongside Elgeti’s tenor sax and Markmann-Eriksen’s baritone sax, give the upbeat “Blustering Waves” a hard-bopping punch, augmented by Besiakov’s equally swaying piano. The four-horn front and the zooming rhythm section furnish “Blustering Waves” an early 1950s exuberance. The group’s active interaction and sonic prominence is an album highlight.
There are various other standouts. Elgeti showcases her ability to pen effective ballads on her tender tribute for her mother, “Angelique,” where Elgeti’s soft tenor sax advances gracefully atop slow and sturdy bass and drum cadences. A sense of loss which gradually switches to semi-controlled ire permeates the dirge-like “But I Wish I Could,” with pivotal use of Hansen’s acoustic and electric guitars and Anderson’s arco bass. Elgeti concludes her record with innovative progressive material. The contrapuntal “Night Moves” has a menacing and avant-garde jazz trait which hints at The World Saxophone Quartet’s funkier moments as well as certain artists from the AACM community. Elgeti goes even more neo-modern with a bonus track remix of “Bossa Among the Trees” which utilizes electronic tabla as a rhythm sample and generates a dance groove which takes the tune beyond jazz’s confines and into the wider music marketplace. In addition to physical CD distribution, Elgeti has also made Into the Open available in streaming digital form as well as a high quality download.
Home; Bossa Among the Trees; Out in the Fields; Downstairs; Ringe I Vand; But I Wish I Could; Trying to Forget; Blustering Waves; Clouds; Angelique; Night Moves; Bossa Among the Trees (remix).
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