Dec 17 2015
Recommended: Emil De Waal + Gustaf Ljunggren and Søren Kjærgaard Feat. Elith “Nulle” Nykjær – “Handmade in Denmark”
In 2013, the quartet of drummer Emil de Waal, pianist Søren Kjærgaard, clarinetist Elith “Nulle” Nykjær and saxophonist Gustaf Ljunggren (who also performs on banjo) released a self-titled recording that was among the year’s best. An impromptu recording of a live performance, it captured the supreme joy and sublime melodicism that can result from a group of talented musicians all coming together in unison, where the sum is greater than the individual parts and where group interplay can be just as dramatic as the solos it invites. There is a warmth and intimacy to that recording that is positively intoxicating.
The success of that collaboration led to a sophomore release. This one, the 2015 release Handmade in Denmark, clearly sounds more planned out, as the musicians attempted to build on what came before. This leads to songs that stretch further out, and forms of expression that aren’t as content with keeping to the same patch of turf. So, now you get “Christiania” diving head-first into a thick groove while rearing back and letting the woodwinds roar. It’s part 1970s tv theme song, part new cool collective jam, and 100% catchy. There’s also the cagey dance of “Den Dumme Prins,” with its slippery cadence and a melody that can’t sit still. And then there’s the keyboard effects shadowboxing with the darting banjo lines on “Almerida,” a song that is as whimsical and it is tuneful. A similar approach is taken to their rendition of “Sound of Silence,” which begins with a music box and then follows through with a laid-back, sunny delivery.
But don’t think for a second that they’ve dispelled the magic they conjured up on their initial foray. “Min Nordiske Bror” could sub in as a children’s lullaby or just as easily snap into place with whiskey neat, a view from the window and the hope that the full moon will shine down on your one true love. “Gräns” is plenty playful, but its gorgeous, heartbreaking melody means serious business. And both “Dukko” and title-track “Handmade in Denmark” hit that dreamy sweet-spot between wakefulness and a night of peaceful sleep.
The quartet closes out the album with “Hans-Henrik Ley-Medley,” displaying one final time the strong magic that bound them together on their first recording… an inviting melody, a chipper attitude, and plenty of personality to spare.
I cannot possibly recommended both of their recordings more enthusiastically. They are, both of them, a delight to hear.
Your album personnel: Emil de Waal (drums, music box, percussion), Gustaf Ljunggren (tenor sax, banjo, guitar), Søren Kjærgaard (keyboards) and Elith “Nulle” Nykjær (clarinet).
Released on Danish Music & Entertainment.
Listen to another album track at the artist’s Soundcloud page.
Jazz from Denmark.
And be sure to read up on their excellent first recording (LINK).