The Danish, Aarhus-based sextet I Think You’re Awesome, led by bass player-composer Jens Mikkel Madsen, keeps refining its distinct optimist vision of jazz blended with healthy doses of pop, folk and even modern, chamber music. The third release of this group, «Kiss Your Darlings», is released as the previous one, «Books» (Jaeger Community Music, 2016), in two versions – fully orchestrated, electric and augmented by guest musicians, and a shorter, chamber jazz, acoustic version.
The sound of I Think You’re Awesome is instantly recognizable. The atmospheric-spacey keyboards, the breezy-folky guitar-banjo-mandolin lines, the leisured, gently rolling rhythmic patterns and the overall emphatic interplay are best captured on pieces like «Rebel Without Applause» and «America». The acoustic, more lyrical interpretations of Madsen’s compositions where he leads a quartet with reeds player Christian Vuust, cellist Maria Edlund and pianist Christian Balvig, highlight his role as an articulate bass player who can sings his songs with few phrases of his bass.
Madsen expanded his vision on «Kiss Your Darlings», adding to his roles of bandleader, bass player, composer and arranger the tasks of a songwriter and vocalist. He deepens his strong emotional attitude even further and dives into his most intimate and painful experiences as depression, alcoholism and anxiety, but suggests mature, and most important, positive insights.
Madsen may not be a natural vocalist but he knows well how to deliver the emotional turmoil and drama of his songs with his fragile voice, especially when he is accompanied with more experienced vocalists as Mirja Klippel on «Warm Milk» and Maria Malmø on «The Same Way As You Walk». The addition of of the horns and the cello to the I Think You’re Awesome sonic envelope colors these songs with many more arresting nuances. Eventually, Madsen’s songs and instrumental compositions, with their strong, sing-along melodic-rhythmic themes, have an immediate, emotional impact that lasts long after the listening process is over.
These songs and compositions keep radiating the hopeful message of this album – love and kindness. Love of music, all kinds of music, and the love of playing together; love of life regardless of its hardships and its pains; love of your kinship, of your loved ones and of your community.
Keep kissing your darlings!
Jens Mikkel Madsen (b, v), Lars Fiil (keys), Frej Lesner (perc, elec), Andreas Skamby (dr), Morten Kærup (g, bjo), Alex Jønsson (g, mand), Mirja Klippel (v), Maria Malmø (v), Mathias Jæger (keys), Chappe (s), Maria Edlund (c), Christian Vuust (s, cl), Christian Balvig (p)