Helge Sunde Norske Store Orkester: Denada (2006)
Denada, an album of big band compositions by the talented Norwegian trombonist/composer Helge Sunde, is amazingly complex and original music that brings to mind the work of Maria Schneider. In fact, had I encountered this album in a blindfold test, I would have said immediately that it was a new album by Schneider.
Sunde's music examines themes seldom explored by jazz. On the opening piece, "IO," for instance, the pontillistic opening salvos gradually give way to a swinging counterpoint. This piece is followed by the hauntingly beautiful "Requiscat in Pace," a ballad featuring Schneider-like dense chords and a tremendous, mournful solo by tenor saxophonist Atle Nymo.
The title piece is a hard-driving composition with a Latin underbeat, featuring excellent solos by Petter Wettre (alto) and Borge Are Halvorsen (baritone). Sunde explores Norwegian folk music on "Om Kvelden" ("At Dawn") and follows this with "Small Landscape," a tour de force for percussionist Marilyn Mazur.
Denada is so good that it deserves to be experienced in toto. The various compositions have an overarching flow that gives them a conceptual unity which one seldom encounters in jazz. Helge Sunde and his band have produced an album that is both thought-provoking and forward-looking, but never loses its will to swing. Denada is by far one of the best albums of big band jazz of the last decade.
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Track Listing: IO; R.I.P. (piano solo); Requiescat in Pace (R.I.P.); Denada; Nocturnal Nature; At Dawn (Om Kvelden); Small Landscape; Idapida; Lesson III; The Ugly... (Den Grimme).
Personnel: Nils Jansen: soprano saxophone, clarinet, flute and alto flute; Petter Wettre: alto, tenor and soprano saxophone, bass clarinet; Atle Nymo: tenor sax, bass clarinet; Borge Are Halvorsen: baritone and alto saxophone, flute; Frank Brodahl, Eckhard Baur, Andres Eriksson: trumpets und flugelhorns; Even Andersen, Oyvind Braekke, Geir Arne Haugsrud: trombones; Helge Sunde: trombone, trumpet solo, tuba, french horn; Olga Konkova: piano; Jens Thoresen: guitar; Per Mathisen: bass; Rune Arnesen: drums; Marilyn Mazur: percussion.