It is a record that pays homage to the great innovators of jazz: Miles & Trane (or perhaps more fittingly their peak-drummers: Tony Williams, Jack DeJohnette & Elvin Jones), as well as Mingus at his fiercest or Sun Ra at his most exotic. Not merely a tribute, the album doubles down with guitar pickings ala John Fahey & Sandy Bull, as well as sparse layers of oddly-tempered mallet percussion and synthesizers.https://elparaisorecords.com/releases/martin-rude-jakob-sk-tt-duo-discipline-assent
I’ve kicked off with this information from the El Paraiso website because I kinda want to get it out of the way, not to particularly denigrate any of the musicians involved here… rather because I want these giants of the past to be duly acknowledged before moving on to describe this album in its own terms. That because it would be easy to drop into some sort of ‘fanboy’ exegesis that would, I feel, detract from the record itself.
For some I imagine that Martin Rude (Sun River) and Jakob Skøtt (Causa Sui) will need no introduction, two Danish musicians with a significant body of work behind them who went in the studio and just jammed for hours… and the edited and dubbed by Skøtt into the music we have here, and I have to say that it’s some of the best I’ve heard… even on the excellent El Paraiso label, is the result.
The album kicks off with ‘Flails and Strands’… which starts up in such a manner that you imagine walking into a jazz club mid-set and just immediately pick up the tempo. You are plunged straight into the middle of some brilliant interplay between Skøtt’s drums and Rude’s double bass… but it is actually once you are through that that you can hear the magic happen with the with the accompanying sounds which add to the soporific feel that drags you almost instantaneously into the heart of the music.
Having established this really cool atmosphere the duo then take the listener on a journey through some wonderful musical territory. ‘A New Arrival’ has a languid feel to it… it cossets you with its comforting motifs that just feels so laid back, and yet also totally engaging and mesmerising.
‘Aurelius Dye’ starts to take us away from the jazz-rich environment into something that feels more towards a Scanindavian/ ‘Kraut’ vibe that never less retains some of the essential work of the previous tracks… but perhaps is a signpost of what is to come.
And come it does with ‘Setenta y Tres’, which is in many ways something of an interlude at just two minutes long, but makes you feel that the tracks have been chosen to this point to gradually fragment into freer and freer musical associations… but in a way that takes the listener along. Indeed, this would seem to me to be a good album to recommend to friends who wanted to explore jazz more but were unsure where to start.
‘Sequoia Sketch’ is another shortish track that in many ways feels like a fragment… here Rude’s guitar work immediately grabs the attention in what is for me a quite exquisite way… while Skøtt’s understated drumming is providing the invaluable mortar to his bricks.
We’re taken off in another direction with ‘The Slip’ with it’s slow beat and sinister double bass which give the track a mysterious feel… again drawing you totally into the music… this time by piquing ones curiosity… what is going on? where will it lead? This could be on a soundtrack to a Scandi Noir thriller.
By contrast ‘The Short Sun’ feels very bright and open… and, as the title suggests, it lets in light on the shady corners that seem to have been explored elsewhere on this album… this feels like a real salve to what has gone before with some folk elements that add to the subtle mix that the album brings on cumulated listens.
Things get more mystical with ‘Random Treasures’… with the Sun Ra influence coming to the fore here for me. I particularly like Skøtt’s drumming here, and the interplay between the two is really excellent… there is so much into this number to enjoy as one expression crashes into the next… like one of those films where the protagonists fall through walls into completely different sets… I could listen to it for ages…
Last up is easily the longest track on the album, the ten plus minute ‘Mountain Montage’… it begins with a bucolic latin guitar and rolling drums… but you can pretty much guess straight away that this is not where it is going to end… beautiful as this is… Sure enough at about the half way mark the duo begin to slowly pick it up… not radically, but discernibly as the track breaks out into a lovely melody that is earthy yet sumptuous… It is a fitting end to a set which takes the listener many places, ending up in what feels like a long dream sequence…
One way of looking at this album would be that it is essentially the outtakes from a session between these two excellent musicians, and certainly some of the tracks sound like fragments of something longer. However, each one stands up in its own right and gives the listener the feeling of being fully immersed in the sound, even if for less than the length of the average pop song in many cases. For me that does not matter, and I’m pretty sure that it’s going to be a regular on my hifi for years to come.
I’m sure the jazz greats mentioned at the start would be proud.
‘The Discipline of Assent’ is released by El Paraiso Records and is available to order now from record shops.
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