Friday, January 8, 2016

Haxholm / Schmidt (feat. Seamus Blake & John Escreet) - Moras (2015)

Morten Haxholm: bass
Rasmus Schmidt: drums
Seamus Blake: saxophone
John Escreet: piano

Deepsea Explorer
Cognitive Dissonance
Subtle Drift
Happy Ever After Is So Once Upon A Time

Haxholm Schmidt is the bassist’s co-led group with drummer Rasmus Schmidt. For Moras (it’s both a wordplay of Morton and Rasmus, but also means messy or entangled in Danish. Haxholm stresses the delights of a mess – in a good pawn shop, for example – rather than suggesting the music is insufficiently thought through) the rhythm pair wanted to play with two players they admired and so booked a studio in Brooklyn and made sure saxophonist Seamus Blake and pianist John Escreet could be there.

Made in the old classic jazz style of a single session (in this case an intense five hours in the studio) the chief bonus is the fresh feel of the encounter. But clearly with musicians of this calibre, a quick in-and-out doesn’t have to mean the material or the results are simple.

Brazen has a fast and tricky theme but minimal chords so the improvisations need to be highly inventive – and Blake and Escreet make damned sure they are, with the latter’s solo in particular being a highlight, both for its developing drive and the support Haxholm and Schmidt bring to it. Blake’s marvellous, almost vocal tone is highlighted in the increasingly impassioned ballad Umber, and the Haxholm gets a few moments in the limelight in Cognitive Dissonance which is in fact far less dissonant than one might expect, and a particularly impressive, fleet-fingered solo on Miyagi.

If Morten Haxholm has a fault it is that, taking both albums together, he stays in the background quite a lot of the time, but that is probably the result of his clear enjoyment and value as a vital support player as well as his admiration for all his fellow musicians, and players like Lund, Blake and Escreet in particular. And generosity is never really a fault, is it?

Two strong and rewarding albums.