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«Rainbow Sessions»

«Rainbow Sessions» is the debut solo album of Norwegian sax player Harald Lassen. This album offers his perspective on his music roots but also features him for the first time as an independent, opinionated composer, resourceful bandleader and label owner, as it is the debut one of his newly-founded Hagen Recordings. Lassen is known from the modern jazz group Pixel, avant-hip-hop Mopti & Bendik Baksaas and as half of the duo Duplex (with double bass player Christian Meaas Svendsen).

«Rainbow Sessions» refers, obviously, to the legendary Oslo-based Rainbow Studios, home to many ECM recordings, where this album was recorded, under the supervision of Jan Erik Kongshaug and Per Espen Ursfjord. The album title is symbolic as it is consciously inspired by many seminal ECM sessions that were recorded in the early incarnations of the Rainbow Studios.

Lassen chose to work within the classic jazz piano quartet format, enlisting the Belgian LABtrio – drummer Lander Gyselinck, double bass player Anneleen Boehme and pianist Bram De Looze – after he saw the trio performing in the 2014 edition of the  12 points festival in Umeå, Sweden. The new quartet toured Norway in May 2016 and recorded «Rainbow Sessions» on the second day on the road. The quartet already sound on the recording session as a strong, tight unit that abstract beautifully Lassen ideas.

The opening composition «Life so far (hasn’t been that bad)» intensifies the familiar atmosphere and sound of many classic ECM recordings, even paying tribute to the seventies quartet of Norwegian sax player Jan Garbarek and Swedish pianist Bobo Stenson. Here, and later on «Okay, I’m Harald», Lassen phrasing sound as enhancing and updating the melodic-impressionistic vocabulary of Garbarek. But Lassen is definitely not a nostalgic composer or player. The themes of his compositions often opt for the contemplative-impressionistic end that is part of the ECM legacy but also suggest Lassen clever manner of developing a multifaceted, fragile story-like songs. His refined personal approach is demonstrated best on the most arresting and moving compositions are, «13.03.87», referring to Lassen birthday, and the closing one, «Your impression». Both compositions highlight Lassen most vulnerable and reserved playing, where every note of his tenor saxophone sound as serious as his own life.

Impressive debut.

Eyal Hareuveni

Harald Lassen (ts), Bram De Looze (p), Anneleen Boehme (b), Lander Gyselinck (dr), Tore Flatjord (perc, 1& 5)

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