After an excellent “Ambush” in 2021, A Tonic for the Troops, the quartet led by Norwegian bassist Ellen Brekken, offers us “Realm of Opportunities“, which uses the elements and partners of the previous recording on compositions by the leader.
We often tend to think of Norwegian jazz as either “atmospheric”, in the tradition of recordings released on the Munich-based ECM label, or as experimental on the likes of Jazzland or Hubro labels.
Ellen Brekken is clearly in a different aesthetic, extending without copying the hardbop vein of the 50s and 60s. The music on this CD is at times eminently invigorating and bursting with joyful energy, and at other times lyrical and melodic. There’s nothing old-fashioned here, just a desire to affirm that a timeless vein has a perfect place in today’s jazz.
Ellen Brekken‘s compositions – all interesting, colorful and lively – are served by first-rate musicians who, like pianist Espen Berg, are either leaders of their own bands or highly sought-after sidemen in various Norwegian ensembles.
Berg‘s playing is at times reminiscent of Monty Alexander, and Magnus Bakken‘s punchy tenor sax is at times reminiscent of the late Jim Pepper.
As for Magnus Stefaniassen Eide‘s drums, they are both tonic and coloristic in the vein of the drummers from the Blue Note stable.
The result is a record that exudes a palpable sense of joy, of which the quartet’s title (a tonic for the troops) is something of an aesthetic manifesto.
Line up :
Ellen Brekken: double bass, compositions
Magnus Bakken: tenor sax
Espen Berg: piano
Magnus Stefaniassen Eide: drums
Realm of Opportunities was released on October 2, 2023 by the label Odin Records
©Photos Julie Hrncirova