Torben Waldorff Quintet
When I read the advertisement for this show in the Boston Phoenix, I knew this show was going to be to hard to pass up. The person, whoever he was, charged with writing a little blurb about what the show would be like, compared Torben Woldorff's Quartet to Miles Second Great Quintet in rhythmic elasticity. Such a statement was probably not true, but nonetheless, even comparing a group to that paradigm is quite a statement in itself. And enough to get me to Ryles on a weeknight. Unfortunately, there were not many people in Boston who shared my enthusiasm. Pity. If not for that appetizer, they should have come to see the up and coming Ingrid Jensen.
I am not one to buy into to stereotypes, but trumpet players, especially Mr. Marsalis, like to talk about how their breed can be rather machissimo. Whether this is more true than not is up for debate, but any woman in jazz who has put herself up against these giants, and has earned the respect of ther fellow musicians, is someone worth checking out. And after seeing Ms. Jensen, it was clear why the respect has come: she simply (or not so simply) plays without cliche. Throughout her performance, I had much difficulty trying to establish who Ms. Jensen has listened to all these years, who solos she has transcribed. Her tone is somewhere between Miles and Clifford (a territory many trumpeters wish to inhabit these politically-correct, sensitive-male days), but it became very apparent after a short period of time that it was her licks, her note choices that were being played. I had a chance to bring this point up to her after the show, and she replied that she realized that she had something valuable to say and that she did not need to copy anyone else. A refreshing perspective.
Well, enough about Ms. Jensen, considering the concert was billed as Torben Waldorff's Quartet, but excluding his name and a large number of his compositions being performed, the group truly was a collective. A collective in the sense that the Second Great Quintet was a collective, with ideas being shared and egos being subjugated for the sake of the whole. All of the pieces performed by the group were by Mr. Waldorff (with the exception of one piece by his wife), and many had names of animals in the titles. There served mostly as vehicles for the improvizers, and were well arranged.
Mr. Waldorff himself is a modern guitarist in the Scofield mold, especially concerning his tone. His solos were rhythmically interesting, and he managed to employ different dynamic ranges in his solos for color. His bas player, Mattias Welin, was always very sympathetic to the needs of the soloist, feeding them rhythmic ideas, but mostly relegating himself to playing ostinatos in the background to leave space for the other band members. He was always easily able to lock in with Pa-Tollbom, the drummer, who knew when to jibe the other players, or when to just hold down the fort.
I am curious to see where both Mr. Waldorff and Ms. Jensens' talents take them in the next few years. Ms. Jensen is already an accomplished soloist, having played recently in front of Maria Schneider's orchestra, and I imagine this is only the beginning. As far as Mr. Waldorff, if and when he gets himself out of Mr. Scofield's shadow, the jazz community will be much more willing to embrace what he has to say.