Winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Media, 2019

by Ian Mann

May 21, 2024


The compositions are melodic and accessible and the trio’s treatment of them is rich in terms of sonic detail and is full of colour and texture. A trio of "exceptional equals".

Arild Andersen / Daniel Sommer / Rob Luft

“As Time Passes”

(April Records APR127CD)

Arild Andersen – double bass, Daniel Sommer – drums, Rob Luft – guitar

Released in April 2024 “As Time Passes” introduces a new international, cross generational trio featuring the esteemed Norwegian bassist Arild Andersen (born 1945), the Danish drummer Daniel Sommer (born 1987) and the British guitarist Rob Luft (born 1993).

The seeds for the project were sown when Sommer was studying on the Advanced Postgraduate Diploma Programme at the Danish National Academy of Music. He was offered the opportunity to collaborate with another musician from elsewhere in Scandinavia and selected Andersen, an undisputed giant of Nordic jazz.

Sommer visited Andersen in Oslo and the pair immediately established a rapport, with Andersen later suggesting that Luft joined them to create a trio. Andersen and Luft are label mates at ECM Records and the bassist had also enjoyed watching Luft’s live performances with vocalist Elina Duni and with bassist / vocalist Ellen Andrea Wang.

Notionally the trio is led by Sommer and the album is released on the Danish label April Records. It is intended that Sommer will release a ‘Nordic Trilogy’ for the label, with subsequent releases featuring two more carefully selected,  Scandinavian ensembles.

However as the best known, and therefore most marketable, member of the trio it’s Andersen’s name that comes first in the credits. After coming to prominence in the late 1960s / early 1970s as a member of bands led by composer George Russell and saxophonist Jan Garbarek he signed to ECM and released his first solo album “Clouds in My Head” in 1975. A quartet recording that also features saxophonist Knut Riisnaes, pianist Jon Balke and drummer Pal Thowsen it established Andersen as a composer and bandleader and still sounds wonderful nearly fifty years later.

Andersen has since released around another twenty five albums as a leader or co-leader, the majority of them for ECM. He has also recorded prolifically as a sideman with a wide variety of artists, among them trumpeters Don Cherry and Markus Stockhausen, pianists Kjetil Bjornstad and Carsten Dahl, saxophonist Andy Sheppard and guitarist Bill Frisell. However, this list is far from comprehensive.

I’ve been listening to Andersen’s music for a long time and have been lucky enough to witness him performing live on a number of occasions with a variety of different line-ups. Sommer, however is a new name to me. It would seem that another inspiration for this trio and for the ‘Nordic Trilogy’ series is his 2017 album “Sommer Duets” which features him in duo performances with ten other instrumentalists from Europe and North America. He has also recorded frequently as a sideman, with regular collaborators including vocalist Karmen Roivassepp, guitarists Jens Fisker and Jonas Kappel and pianists Simon Eskildsen and Artturi Ronka. For more information about Daniel Sommer please visit his website at

The British guitarist and composer Rob Luft is likely to represent a more familiar figure to UK jazz audiences. A former member of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra (NYJO) Luft was also the winner of the 2016 Kenny Wheeler Jazz Prize. This life changing Award helped to finance the recording of his 2017 debut album “Riser” on Edition Records, one of the most significant UK jazz releases of recent years. “Riser” was universally acclaimed and Luft consolidated his position with the equally accomplished “Life is the Dancer”, also on Edition in 2020. His latest release for Edition is 2023’s “Dahab Days”, another album that has been universally well received by fans and critics alike.

Luft has been one of the THE success stories of British jazz in recent years. He has also been a BBC New Generation Artist and his talents have also come to the attention of producer Manfred Eicher of ECM Records. Luft has released two albums for ECM in conjunction with his partner, vocalist and lyricist Elina Duni. Both “Lost Ships” (2020) and “A Time to Remember” (2023) have been rewarded with the same kind of critical and popular acclaim that has greeted Luft’s solo recordings.

In a more mainstream jazz context Luft has forged successful alliances with saxophonist Dave O’Higgins and with drummer Enzo Zirilli. Others with whom he has recorded include vocalists Liane Carroll, Joy Ellis, Luna Cohen, Alice Zawadzki and Karen Lane, saxophonist Tom Ridout, trumpeter Lara Jurd, bassist Misha Mullov-Abbado and drummers Phelan Burgoyne and Corrie Dick. He has also worked with the bands Big Bad Wolf and Patchwork Orchestra.

Andersen, Sommer and Luft are quick to emphasise the fact they are very much a trio of equals, with the compositional duties divided pretty much evenly. As part of an eight song programme Andersen and Sommer contribute three tunes each while Luft, the most recent addition to the band, provides two, but one of these represents the title track.

The trio takes inspiration from two celebrated American groups that first began to blur the boundaries between leaders and accompanists, pianist Bill Evans’ trio with bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian, and the Chicago based free jazz group Air, featuring Henry Threadgill (reeds), Fred Hopkins (bass) and Steve McCall (drums).

The album commences with Luft’s title track, which begins with an ethereal rubato style intro featuring the semi-ambient sounds of Luft’s effects drenched guitar, Andersen’s deeply resonant but highly melodic bass and Sommer’s empathic brush work. Luft’s solo recordings have revealed him to be a master of colour and texture who uses his range of effects skilfully and carefully. His quasi-orchestral approach is essentially equivalent to painting in sound and there’s nothing remotely cliched about his use use of loops, delays, reverb and echo and other assorted effects and techniques. Luft is a genuine original with a sound that is very much his own. He also has a gift for melody and this is also a gorgeous tune that elicits some beautiful playing from both himself and Andersen. An exquisite start.

Sommer switches to sticks for his own composition “Ea”, a shorter snappier piece ushered in by the composer at the drum kit. Luft continues to deploy his range of guitar effects wisely and there’s something of a Bill Frisell feel about this track as Luft solos in agile fashion around Sommer’s crisp, semi-martial drum grooves. Andersen links up well with the drummer before briefly emerging as a soloist towards the close.

Andersen’s first contribution with the pen is “Fifth Winter”, an atmospheric and highly melodic composition that variously evokes visions of Norwegian snowscapes and dust blown Americana. Andersen’s own virtuoso bass playing is featured during the course of a solo that again combines a huge tone with remarkable dexterity and a highly developed sense of melody. Sommer again concentrates on a supportive role, again deploying brushes with great sensitivity. As he told Tim Larsen of the Jazz Views website he is “not interested in playing long flashy drum solos” but is more concerned with “the interplay, the empathic communication, and creating music as a band together”.  Meanwhile Luft again brings a rich sonic palette to the music, adding delicate shadings to Andersen’s solo in addition to creating rich, swirling textures during his own melodic guitar excursions.

Luft’s second contribution as a composer is “North Wind”, on which he plays a combination of acoustic and electric guitars. Similarly Sommer moves between brushes and sticks, this is an ensemble that consistently makes the right choices in the service of the music. Andersen is again featured as a virtuoso pizzicato bass soloist. He is also a fine arco player and has also experimented with various electronic techniques in the past. In the context of this trio he is happy to leave the electronica in the hands of the younger Luft. “I knew I wouldn’t need my electronics” he told Michael Tucker of Jazz Journal, the author of the album liner notes, “Rob has all sorts of fantastic sounds and colours to offer!”  Primarily Andersen focusses on the pizzicato technique, with just the slightest suggestion of the bow on “Fifth Winter”.

Emerging out of a snippet of studio chatter Andersen’s own “Basslines” is centred around his own bass motif but sees Luft bringing an evocative splash of North African/ Middle Eastern colour to the music.

Sommer’s “Meditation” unfolds slowly, atmospherically brooding in a manner that befits its title. Luft is initially featured on acoustic guitar, sprinkling bright shards of light onto the surface of a deep, vaguely menacing undertow of double bass and brushed drums. He’s later heard overdubbing himself on electric,  spiralling above the deepening bass and drum groove.

Softly shadowed by Luft’s guitar Andersen’s resonant, well articulated double bass introduces his own “Evening Song”. Guitar and bass then intertwine melodically and Luft even introduces a Shadows like twang to augment the more contemporary guitar sounds. Andersen then stretches out more expansively as a soloist, essentially carrying the melody as Luft adds shimmering guitar ambience and Sommer adds succinct drum commentary.

The drummer then introduces his own “A Day in March”, the title reflecting the recording dates of March 9th and 10th 2023. Again the composer is featured deploying brushes as the music slowly unfolds with Andersen’s bass motif initially navigating the way. Written passages appear to interchange with more freely improvised episodes, including a double bass solo and even an unaccompanied drum episode as Sommer actually takes a solo! The final passages feature a more robust bass and drum groove, this providing the backdrop for Luft’s spiralling guitar inventions.

Recorded by a comparative ‘supergroup’ “As Time Passes” is an enchanting album that is very much the creation of a trio of what Tucker describes as “exceptional equals”. The compositions are melodic and accessible and the trio’s treatment of them is rich in terms of sonic detail and is full of colour and texture. The instrumental virtuosity of both Andersen and Luft is sympathetically supported by Sommer’s finely nuanced drumming. Luft’s inventive but sensitive use of electronics adds an almost orchestral depth and colour to music that sometimes sounds as if it is the product of more than just three pairs of hands. In addition to the quality of the playing and writing the production is also excellent. With all respect to April Records this album wouldn’t sound out of place on ECM.

The album has been very well received by fans and critics alike and it would be nice to think that this trio might be able to perform some live dates, preferably with some of those taking place in the UK.

Meanwhile my research has revealed that Sommer’s next collaboration in his “Nordic Trilogy” series will be with Norwegian trumpeter Arve Henriksen and Swedish bassist Johannes Lundberg.

Sommer also studied at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, hence his subsequent work with a number of Finnish musicians. The final collaboration in the Trilogy will feature Finnish pianist Artturi Ronka, with whom Sommer has worked before,  and the Swedish bassist Thommy Andersson.

On the evidence of “As Time Passes” the resultant albums will be well worth hearing, but they’re going to have to go some to surpass this first instalment.

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