Recapping the Best of 2011: Markus Pesonen Hendectet – “Hum”

January 25, 2012


The Markus Pesonen Hendectet doesn’t waste time with small talk.  Right from the start, Hum slams the listener with a barrage of instruments and batters the ears with waves of free jazz dissonance.  Skronking and barking saxes indelibly mark their territory, and everyone else flexes their muscles as a sign that they have the woodwinds’s backs.  It’s an intimidating start to an album that is far more substantive and complex than first impressions would indicate.

Your album personnel:  Markus Pesonen (guitar, lapsteel and compositions), Elena Setién (voice, violin), Adam Pultz Melbye (bass), Camilla Barrat-Due (accordion), Marc Lohr (drums, electronics), Otis Sandsjö (alto & tenor sax, clarinet), Martin Stender (tenor & soprano sax, flute), Lars Greve (tenor & soprano & baritone sax, bass clarinet), Tobias Wiklund (trumpet, flugelhorn), Petter Hängsel (trombone), and Jonatan Ahlbom (tuba).

Second track “Hullun Paperit” isn’t anything that will make the neighbors to call the cops, but it’s not exactly white tablecloth fine dining either.  Low steady drone of instruments, an indication of a melody, but not one from this planet.  Violin peeks out from between warped notes and makes things pretty here and there, but then darts back behind the curtains, leaving the ears waiting for more.

Third track “Sugar Rush” is an interesting detour, a composition that would be at home as a soundtrack to a 007 flick… a scene of undercover spies chasing each other across a packed casino hall, bullets flying, identities changed, a brief pause to the flurry of conflict just long enough to order a martini and light the leggy blondes cigarette.

The title track “Hum” makes sure you didn’t start thinking it was all fun and games.  If the opening track was a wave of dissonance, then for this track, it’s a cement block… lots of ’em.  This isn’t a song one listens to so much as withstands.

And then “Reliever”, which holds up to its name with a peaceful respite of soft persuasion to continue on.

Pitch and volume increase as the song reaches its conclusion, but not sufficiently to erase the sense of having entered an eye of the storm.

And then the album really goes through the changes.  It begins with a ridiculous awesome cover of the classic Charles Mingus tune “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat”.  Flute winds tight circle around languid violin lines.  It’s faintly reminiscent of the Mingus version (he recorded the tune on several occasions) that he recorded for his album Four or Five Shades of Blue.  When the saxes and rhythm section enter the picture, they do it swinging.  The soul of Mingus is here and is his compositional lunacy, and Pesonen doesn’t give any impression other than his love and respect for both.

The song “Space Race” begins as a bit of avant-garde replete with electronic effects, but then transmutes into a pretty ballad, though without shedding the odd effects and electronic flourishes.  Even when saxes start to show signs of roughhousing, the tune doesn’t lose that essential softness.  It’s quite a pretty tune, even if it’s an unconventional type of pretty.

The album ends with a brilliant cover of the Beatles’ “Day in the Life”.  Elena Setien turns a nifty phrase and, thankfully, does try to oversell the lyrics.  Most people that cover the Beatles (in any genre) almost inevitably leave me missing the original badly…. not here, though.  This was, in retrospect, a natural cover song for this ensemble to record; a great excuse for them to blast a few more waves of sound, though not without flirting with a mash-up of some New Orleans jazz along the way.  Honestly, they just sound like they’re having a blast playing this song, and this, on an album that gives the impression they had fun recording the entire damn thing.

Finnish guitarist and composer Markus Pesonen has assembled eleven musicians from the Copenhagen and Berlin scenes, and together they created this tiny little masterpiece.  Hum is an album that challenges the ears as often as it gives comfort, if not more.  It’s a very exciting development anytime a new voice on the jazz scene puts forth an uncompromising recording of his or her vision, with a display of confidence and high musicianship.  Just outstanding.

Released on the Unit Records label. Jazz from the Copenhagen and Berlin scenes.

Available on Emusic.

Also, available on Amazon:

Tiny Reviews: Dave Chisholm, Bill McHenry, Markus Pensonen, & More

December 31, 2011

Tiny Review recs of new Jazz releases, featuring:  Dave Chisholm, Bill McHenry, Markus Pesonen, Quinteto Ricardo Pinto, Ely Guerra, and Peter Bryngelsson.


The recs below were built off the skeleton of the recommendations I make as part of my weekly contribution to the Emusic New Arrivals article.  I do the jazz recs for it.  Emusic lets me copy it onto my blog 30 after it’s posted on their site.  When I post on Bird is the Worm, I add album art, audio (when available), additional links, and if I’ve had the opportunity to give the album additional listens, modify my opinion a bit and tighten up the original language.  So here it goes…

Let’s begin:


Dave Chisholm – Calligraphy

An interesting sophomore release from trumpeter Dave Chisholm. His debut album Radioactive was a successful big band affair with sweeping melodies and unapologetic turns of drama and melancholy. For Calligraphy, Chisholm scales down to a quintet, and he zooms in on the heart of his melodies, leaving a result of an album that is more post-rock than jazz.  Imagine Mogwai recording a jazz album, and you have a decent idea of what’s contained here.  It’s really quite beautiful, and it’s a fascinating look at different facets of Chisholm’s source of creativity.  A nice meeting point for jazzers and post-rockers to come together. Recommended.

It’s Self-Produced.  Jazz from the Rochester, NY scene.

Go visit his site. There’s a bunch of cool promo videos for the album.

You can stream the entire album (and purchase it, too) on his bandcamp page.

Download a free album track at AllAboutJazz, courtesy of the artist.

Available on Emusic.


Bill McHenry – Ghosts of the Sun

There is something deceptively propulsive about this album. Listen to it, and it comes off as a laid-back affair filled with soft tunes and casual rhythms, but much how gentle waves on a calm sea can carry an inattentive boat far away from its resting place, so is the effect of Bill McHenry’s compositions on the listener. Engaging without fussy complexities, moving despite a whiff of nonchalance, the album is an experience. Features Ben Monder, Reid Anderson, and the dearly departed Paul Motian. Outstanding.

Released on the Sunnyside Records label.  Jazz from the Brooklyn scene.

The entire album can be streamed on McHenry’s bandcamp page.

Available at Emusic.


Markus Pesonen Hendectet – Hum

The Markus Pesonen Hendectet throws their instruments at the listener all at once. Waves of sound come crashing in, one after the other, eleven pieces consisting of an army of woodwinds and brass, strings, accordion, and percussion. Hints of melody, however, tease with the promise of warmth. That promise is honored halfway through the album, gentle ballads, a rousing cover of Charles Mingus’s “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat”, and a nifty rendition of the Beatles’ “Day in the Life.” Absolutely thrilled with this album. Highly Recommended.

NOTE:  I’ve written a review of this album for eMusic, found here.

Released on the Unit Records label.  Jazz from the Copenhagen and Berlin scenes.

Available on Emusic.


Quinteto Ricardo Pinto – Sintra Project

Intriguing debut album by this Portuguese jazz quintet. Couldn’t find much online about this group, but I’ve been terrifically enamored with its steady drive and moody ambiance. A balancing act between a pleasant swing and determined rock-like rhythms, in addition to some nice harmonizing between horns and woodwinds, this recording would likely get slotted under nu-jazz, which means it’ll appeal to Indie fans and modern jazzers alike. Nice little recording.

Your album personnel: Ricardo Pinto (trumpet), Bruno Margalho (alto sax), Daniel Hewson (piano), Francesco Valente (double bass), and Rui Pereira (drums)

Released on the FEWG Records label, a digital music label focused in jazz and experimental electronic music. Jazz from the Lisbon, Portugal scene.

Available on Emusic.


Ely Guerra – Invisible Man

Recent Grammy nominee Ely Guerra hits the emusic site with seductive little set of piano trio songs. Ely’s vocals are the kind I like… seemingly effortless, not pushy, and no emotional cheap shots. It’s a delicate affair from beginning to end, pretty straight-forward without any real surprises, but when it’s boiled down its barest elements, it’s a pretty album that’s a very nice listen, and I felt compelled to mention it.

Released on the Homey Company label.  Jazz from the Guadalajara, Mexico scene.

Available on Emusic.


Okay, this one probably shouldn’t even be filed under jazz, but it’s just too damn cool not to mention…

Peter Bryngelsson – Wunderbaum

Founding member of old-school prog rock band Ragnarok, Peter Bryngelsson puts together an album of field recordings, sax, banjo, electric, acoustic, and slide guitars, harmonica, strings, various percussion, and a Hohner Claviola. It’s almost too easy to use the word ‘cinematic’ to describe this album, but easy sounds good to me right now. Fans of Ennio Morricone, Devotchka, Marc Ribot, and John Fahey should spend some time investigating this album. Too cool.

NOTE:  I’ve fallen in love with this album since first hearing and writing about it above, so I’ll be writing a full-length review right after the new year.

Released on DOS Records.

Available on emusic.


That’s it for today.



Here’s some language to protect emusic’s rights as the one to hire me originally to scour through the jazz new arrivals and write about the ones I like:

New Arrivals Jazz Picks“, courtesy of, Inc.
© 2011, Inc.

My thanks to emusic for the freelance writing gig, the opportunity to use it in this blog, and the editorial freedom to help spread the word about cool new jazz being recorded today.