Over the past few years Swedish bassist, cellist, composer, and arranger Lars Danielsson has matured into one of the most important voices in European jazz. He has played alongside such international stars as Michael Brecker and Randy Brecker, John Scofield, and Charles Lloyd, led his own quartet, worked as musical producer for Caecilie Norby, Viktoria Tolstoy and the Danish Radio Orchestra, and, most importantly, recorded three CDs under his own name for ACT. These recordings reveal Danielsson’s unmistakeable originality, his music’s amazing openness, and his wide-ranging creativity.
On his ACT debut Libera Me (ACTSACD 9800-2) Danielsson proved to be a master of orchestral jazz; on the follow-up Mélange Bleu (ACT 9604-2) he surprised his audience with a modern, scrupulously applied electronic framework for his expansive, richly textured compositions; and on the duo album Pasodoble (ACT 9458-2) he and his Polish peer, pianist Leszek Możdżer, executed a beautiful and breathtaking manifesto of melody and harmony that mediated between classic and jazz.
All of these previous concepts form the basis of Danielsson’s new CD, Tarantella (ACT 9477-2). For instance, some of the duo pieces and passages on Tarantella, such as “Melody on Wood” and “Fiojo”, are built directly upon passages from Pasodoble, and on listening, it’s no wonder that Danielsson calls Możdżer “the perfect pianist for me”. It is simply amazing how Danielsson consistently refines his work, how he continues to open up new areas of sound and place them in new contexts and combinations. “I have taken the character of my music as the starting point, and have looked for the people who will best fit to it.” He found Norwegian trumpeter Mathias Eick, British guitarist John Parricelli, and the American drummer Eric Harland.
This assembled international line-up is ideal for pieces that, with their controlled sense of arching suspense, seem so classically oriented on the one hand, and on the other hand are wide-open for improvisation and intimate musical dialogue. Those who know Mathias Eick can confirm that his lyrical trumpet playing, saturated with its bold sense of space, is a perfect accompaniment. More surprising is how John Parricelli, who is best known for his fusion-sound, and who has worked with the likes of Colin Towns and Django Bates, obtains such delicately shaded sounds on the guitar. And it’s even more amazing as to how the young drummer Eric Harland – sideman with Charles Lloyd, McCoy Tyner, and also with ACT on two Rigmor Gustafsson productions – has traded in the hard-edged, energy-loaded US school of drumming in favour of a more laid-back, melodically innovative percussion style.
Lars Danielsson also breaks the mould on this production. First, he invited his musical cohorts to his home and straight away recorded several of the pieces with them. This is how the band transformed “Traveller’s Wife”, a classical-sounding cello solo, into “Traveller’s Defense”: “At the sound check we recorded it ‘accidentally’, and that was it. After that I made at least ten regular takes, but the first ‘accidental’ take was simply the best one. Such a situation within one’s own four walls is something special. You don’t think, you simply play.”
Contrary to how he usually does it, Danielsson composed several of the pieces on guitar. “Normally I compose on the piano, mostly in the morning. While improvising I find something and make a song out of it - try to create a particular ambiance. Generally the compositions are pretty structured when it comes to recording. But of course, when you compose on the guitar you work very differently: much more freely.”
Accordingly, Tarantella is more multi-layered than Danielsson’s previous projects. Whether they are atmospheric, suspended musical images full of movement (this is already implied in the names of the title piece, along with “Ballet”, and Ballerina”), spherical hymns reminiscent of Swedish church music (“Introitus and “Postludium”), or chamber jazz – ultra-modern, fast miniatures (“1000 Ways”) – Danielsson has found his own fascinating musical expression for it all and in so doing has affirmed his place as a crucially important composer and musician.