Mikkel Ploug / Sissel Vera Pettersen / Joachim Badenhorst: Equilibrium (2009)
Equilibrium is three-way partnership between Danish guitarist Mikkel Ploug, Belgian saxophonist and clarinetist Joachim Badenhorst and Norwegian vocalist and saxophonist Sissel Vera Pettersen. The trio's charming and ruminative mixture borrows elements of contemporary chamber music, jazz and various indigenous vocal traditions ranging from Inuit throat singing to West African griots and incorporates a variety of extended instrumental techniques and electronic processing.
The trio revels in the sonorities it produces and each texture that arises exists in its own austere space. Melodies like that of Ploug's "Soft Spoken" unfold gradually, with the embellishments adding to the depth of the mood set by the theme without distracting the listener from the ensemble's somber introspection. In addition to Ploug's five originals are four brief chorales composed by Pettersen and a handful of group improvisations. While not contributing any compositions himself, Badenhorst's colorful and multi-faceted reed work brings both dramatic expression and microscopic intrigue. His extended solo introduction to the group improvisation "Fri" is both moving and technically superb, calling to mind some of his work on the most recent release by guitarist Ryan Blotnick.
The members of the ensemble have a list of projects with many other notable artists that seem quite relevant to the genesis of this particular ensemble's voice: Ploug's extensive work in the jazz realm includes two records on Fresh Sound-New Talent, featuring saxophonist Mark Turner, and Audiopool, Pettersen's duo with fellow vocalist and sound constructionist Theo Bleckmann, suggests a very direct connection with the precedent set by Bleckmann in both his own work and his extensive work with Meredith Monk. In addition to the aforementioned Ryan Blotnick band, Badenhorst is also a member of drummer Han Bennink's trio.
With all these influential associations informing each member's approach to the group, Equilibrium's seamless integration of jazz vocabulary, textural improvisation, aesthetics and structures associated with chamber music shows the possibilities of proactive collaborative directionality.
Track Listing: Chorale I; November; Cathedral; Fri; Soft Spoken; Epiphora; Chorale II; Chords; Aeroide; Takt; Chorale III; Warmth; Ambiente; Chorale IV.
Personnel: Mikkel Ploug: electric and acoustic guitar; Sissel Vera Pettersen: voice, soprano saxophone, live electronics; Joachim Badenhorst: clarinet, bass clarinet, tenor saxophone.