It has been something of a slow start this year, review-wise. While I have been listening to, and enjoying, lots of great music… I somehow have not felt moved to write about any of them… until now… and it is somewhat unsurprising that the hiatus has been broken by a release from Denmark’s El Paraiso Records… and even more so that it is a work by Jakob Skøtt and Martin Rude.
As a duo, Rude and Skøtt released two of my favourite albums in 2020, ‘The Discipline of Assent’ and ‘The Dichotomy of Control’, and as you can see from my reviews of the (click on the album’s name), both hit me really well.
Now comes ’The Virtue of Temperance’, and the duo have become a trio with the addition of Tamar Osborn on alto sax and flute, taking what is already a stellar collaboration to another level. Here is a collection of ten tracks which are not only superbly played and arranged, but reach a degree of emotion which is just wonderful to behold.
The album kicks off with ’Infinite Element’ a relatively low key jazz number which nevertheless sets out the album’s stall. The mixture of Skøtt’s drumming and overdubs with Rude’s precise and hypnotic double bass allow Osborn the freedom to express himself over the five minutes of the number… a great introduction to the trio.
This is followed by my current favourite, ’L’Ombra Blu’ a wonderfully slow and sinister piece which is more sparing than the opener. There’s more space here… an ethereal feeling that is both introspective and cinematic… a track that really gets me where it feels… amazing.
‘Morsels’ is what feels like a fragment of something… an interlude… before ‘Keep Up’ with it’s wonderful bass riff which immediately draws the listener in, while the sax weaves sonic spells around the ether… add in percussion which is at the same time keeping beat and fragmenting… and you get a wonderfully heady mix which is both coherent and yet takes you off on great sweeping tangents.
After that, ‘The Blue of the Horizon’ feels like we are emerging into a verdant clearing in the forest with its birdsong and flute… an acoustic guitar gives further colour to the track which marks something of a bucolic departure away from the more jazz influenced work thus far… a wonderfully relaxing piece.
We return to the jazz with ’Divided Sun’… another complex track with the three musicians seemingly playing off each other… and it is a mark of the way that Skøtt has mixed this together that, for the most part, you could imagine this music being played in a rudimentary basement whereas much of it was recorded remotely… especially, I understand, Osborn’s parts.
‘Quiet Light’ is pretty much as described by the title… a downbeat and softly-spoken number which pulls the tension out of you… and although relatively short, has an ability to really affect you in quick time. It also acts as way of enhancing the impact of ’Whirlpool Sequence’ an exciting number which has the feel of a late 60s/ early 70s TV theme for an all-action show. As with such music of that time, there is a lot more going on under the surface here than first appears.
Now it is in my head ’We Are But Water’ also has something of a panoramic feel to it… while sharing some of the vibe of ’The Blue of the Horizon’ (despite its title) this feels more expansive to me with an undulating topography of sound stretching out into the distance.
Which brings me to the final track ’Belonging To The In Between’ which begins as a sort of hybrid sound with lots of overdubs before the trio seem to suddenly break out into a frenzy of flowing free jazz before going back into its shell again… certainly the title reflects the liminality of this final and most varied number which ricochets between styles in a fluid and coherent manner worthy not only of this album, but of the loose trilogy.
…and as I come back to at the end there this really does built on the excellent work by Rude and Skøtt over the first two albums, and goes farther down the road with the addition of Osborn’s playing. Put them on them back to back, or individually, these really are albums which get better and better… and while I’m happy to stick with these I have a feeling that there might be more to come from these guys.
‘The Virtue of Temperance’ is out now on El Paraiso Records.
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