Danish pianist-composer Lars Fill continues to tread on the thin line between carefully-arranged, minimalistic textures and eruptive, free jazz chaos. The sophomore album of his septet Fill Free, «Under Overfladen» (Beneath The Surface), continues where the debut album, «Everything Is A Translation» (Fill Free, 2016) while keeping the same line-up of some of the most uncompromising improvers located at the fertile Copenhagen scene.
«Under Overfladen» features six compositions, each one explores a distinct – quirky, as Fill calls it – improvisation strategy. The opening, title-piece suggests a chamber jazz atmosphere, led by trumpeter Tomasz Dąbrowski, clarinet player Henrik Pultz Melbye and vibes player Martin Fabricius, together they intensify the melodic core while other musicians, especially guitarist Henrik Olsson and drummer Bjørn Heebøll, subvert their efforts before the whole septet settles on a powerful rhythmic pattern. «Stille undren» begins in a similar manner, but builds methodically and collectively a sensual, Eastern-sounding tension, but enable bass player Casper Nyvang Rask, vibes player Fabricius and later Fill himself to search for alternative courses.
«12-6» perfects Fill Free’s pendulum-like strategy that alternates between simple, meticulous arranged rhythmic pattern and an open invitation for personal and collective improvisations, but never loses its grip of the underlying groove. The lyrical theme of the beautiful ballad «Tid» is introduced by clarinetist Pultz Melbye, accompanied gently by Dąbrowski and Fill, all play slowly the delicate-ethereal theme, creating an almost electronics-sounding, melancholic drone, occasionally disturbed by Olsson’s feedback and the bowing work of Nyvang Rask.
«Omvendtom» erupts with muscular energy, does not suspend its uncompromising, chaotic attacks but the septet learns to vary its assaults, experimenting with a marching-like front of Dąbrowski and Fill opposite Fabricius and Heebøll and later sax player Pultz Melbye vs. all others. The last piece, «Largo Con Moto», is introduced as an innocent song-like ballad by Dąbrowski and Fill, but patiently absorbs more and more subtle but restless layers that challenge its somber, quiet tone, most of these unquieting sounds are produced by the ever-surprising Dąbrowski.
Definitely, quite a quirky ride, but a highly rewarding one.
Tomasz Dąbrowski (tp), Henrik Pultz Melbye (s, cl), Henrik Olsson (g), Martin Fabricius (vib), Lars Fiil (p), Casper Nyvang Rask (b), Bjørn Heebøll (dr)