10 November 2007

Impossibly simple (NJWC2)

The second of CJ's three reviews for the National Jazz Writing Competition

CD review
Niels Rosendahl
Impossibly simple
Independent release by Niels Rosendahl, NCR001, February 2007
323 words

It’s wonderfully exciting to watch a young muso developing. Their first CD is an early statement of intent, and an opening to the wider world. Niels Rosendahl’s first CD is just this. But surprisingly mature. He’s a capable and well trained player, and one of the star students at the local Jazz School in Canberra. But he’s also got recent time in London and Edinburgh under his belt, and a great pack of graduates and staff to support him.

Niels Rosendahl (tenor, soprano saxes) teams with the local trio of note, Straight Up!, comprising Eric Ajaye (bass), Michael Azzopardi (piano) and Chris Thwaite (drums). Joining them on some tracks are Jonathon and Luke Apps (trumpets) and Anna Thompson (violin).

Niels is perfectly capable of screaming, Coltranesque extravaganzas. A Jazz School exercise was to learn Trane’s Giant Steps solo in all keys. He’s renowned for playing it on request in F#. Impressive. But his post-graduate, scholarship year in the UK has calmed the student mania, so we now have a composed approach of gentleness and honesty although still with considerable energy. The support trio is known to be hot, but is also apt for this outing. Eric Ajaye has an LA background of recording and touring. We expect and get outstanding, expressive bass reminiscent of Buster Williams: all growling low action, fast fingers and frequent slides. Michael Azzopardi is a student in name, but a master in performance, and impresses here as always: ample harmonic fluidity, great technical proficiency and huge passion. Chris Thwaite accompanies with relative quiet, but true responsiveness.

The compositions are all by Niels, and there’s a rich range, from the neo-bop “Penguins”, through modal, modern and latin to a ballad dedicated to soulmate “Carrie”. Not all tunes flow equally freely, but nonetheless they signal a capable composer. The sound of the CD is not spectacular, but it’s an impressive first album, and an omen of a young player to watch.

No comments: