The Danish trio of guitarist Mark Solborg, reeds player Anders Banke and drummer Bjørn Heebøll match on their debut album Albert Ayler (his elegiac «Angels» became the title of the album and sets the tone of the trio’s debut album). Thelonious Monk and British singer-songwriter Nick Drake. These gifted, long-time partners in many musical crimes could easily qualify as angels in disguise, considering their comprehensive and impressive work or the eclectic gathering of artists across genres with whom they played, including Evan Parker and Peter Brötzman, Egberto Gismonti and Hermeto Pascoal, Django Bates and John Tchicai, and in Solborg 4 («1+1+1+1» and «4+4+1», ILK, 2007 and 2012) and with many other local Danish musicians.
This trio’s approach may be described as a «celestial musical kaleidoscope». The dynamics are always synergistic and the interplay is democratic, attentive and based on profound mutual and almost telepathic understanding, the outcome of many years of playing together. This trio sounds as if Solborg, Banke and Heebøll breathe through the same lungs. The atmosphere of Angels is introspective most of the time, patient and suggesting insightful and elastic musical talks, whether the trio explores original pieces or interprets seminal, historic songs.
These angels sure know how to sing, and sometimes even to dance. You can sense it immediately in Banke’s opening piece «Den 7. dag», where its delicate and transparent tonal architecture for three intertwined voices can really make the angels rejoice. And even more so in the gentle playfulness of Solborg’s «Rigors Remain» when even the energetic playing of Heebøll only stresses the tight melodic lines of Solborg and Banke; or in his beautiful, dreamy «Early Morning Bells”, the ethereal «Another Bastard», and the joyful, rhythmic «Longsome».
Only Monk’s standard «Misterioso» – titled here «Mr. Y Oso» – received a rocking, restless cover, abstracted by the thorny guitar of Solborg, the fragmented rhythmic patterns of Heebøll and the tenor sax cries of Banke. The cover of Monk’s emotional ballad, «Crepuscule with Nellie», is faithful to its distinct elliptical kind of interplay and the unison playing. The trio sings majestically Ayler’s «Angels», highlighting the spiritual-healing quality of this melody. Banke’s bass clarinet leads the poetic cover of Drake’s «Harvest Breed» (from his last studio album, «Pink Moon», Island, 1972), articulating beautifully the melancholic and vulnerable tone of this touching song.
These Danish angels come in many shapes, but all offer moving, imaginative songs.
Mark Solborg (g), Anders Banje (ts, bcl), Bjørn Heebøll (dr, perc)