by Ian Mann
October 01, 2014
Ian Mann enjoys a performance of excellent contemporary jazz from a London based quartet led by Danish born bassist and composer Henrik Jensen .
Henrik Jensen’s Followed By Thirteen, Dempsey’s, Cardiff, 24/09/2013.
The fact that my wife and I were staying for a few days with her parents out in the Vale of Glamorgan allowed me the opportunity to visit Dempsey’s two nights in succession. A trip to my favourite Cardiff jazz venue is always a pleasure but the performance by the City of Poets quintet (pianist Cedric Hanriot, trumpeter Jason Palmer, saxophonist Donny McCaslin, bassist Michael Janisch and drummer Clarence Penn) the previous evening was one of the most exciting that I’ve seen in six years of fairly regular attendance at Dempsey’s. The place was absolutely rammed with the electric atmosphere transmitting itself to the performers. A review of that event can be found elsewhere on this site.
It was unfortunate for bassist and composer Henrik Jensen that his quartet, Followed By Thirteen were booked in the following night. With respect to Jensen and his colleagues if you were only able to attend one gig in Cardiff this week it was always likely to be the one featuring the big name Americans. Thus Followed By Thirteen found themselves playing to an audience of around twenty, probably a quarter of the number that had squeezed in to the intimate venue the night before. However those that stayed away missed another treat as Followed By Thirteen produced another performance of excellent contemporary jazz, all of it written by Jensen and sourced from the group’s début album “Qualia” (reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann).
Joining Jensen at Dempsey’s were album personnel Esben Tjalve (piano) and Andre Canniere (trumpet) with the drum stool occupied by Daniel Harding, a late replacement for regular incumbent Pete Ibbotson. Although all its members are based in London this was a truly international quartet with three Danish born musicians joined by the American Canniere, evidence if any were needed that London is a truly international jazz city.
Jensen is no stranger to the Jazzmann web pages thanks to Followed By Thirteen and also to his collaborations with the German saxophonist Peter Ehwald and British pianist Will Butterworth. Tjalve has been featured as the leader of his own Red Kite sextet and released an excellent eponymous début recording by that ensemble on F-ire Presents in 2012. Meanwhile Canniere leads his own groups (sometimes including Tjalve) and has released two albums for Whirlwind Recordings, “Forward Space (2012) and “Coalescence” (2014). He is also a key member of guitarist Hannes Riepler’s band and appears on the 2012 release “The Brave”. Harding was a new name to me but the young drummer fitted seamlessly into Jensen’s quartet and acquitted himself with considerable aplomb.
Tonight’s performance featured all the material from “Qualia” albeit played in a different running order to that of the album. Hensen has lived in the UK for over a decade and his tune titles reference both UK and Danish culture. “The Post Office” kicks off the album and also opened the show here, a brightly bustling piece introduced by Jensen’s solo bass and featuring expansive solos from Tjalve, Canniere and the leader on big toned but melodic double bass. I was particularly impressed by Tjalve who absorbed himself thoroughly in his playing and was consistently inventive, his live performance more than living up to the promise suggested by “Red Kite”.
The title of the playful “City Fox” was doubtless inspired by the increasingly ubiquitous urban foxes that can be seen roaming the streets in the part of North London in which Jensen lives. I see more of the creatures when I come up to town each year for London Jazz Festival than I do during the rest of the year in rural Herefordshire!
Jensen’s piece was highly descriptive with short, elusive phrases and a kind of loping swing that presented a convincing musical depiction of old Reynard. Highlights included a lightly skipping Tjalve solo on Dempsey’s trusty Kawai piano, Canniere’s flaring trumpet and the sparkling exchanges between the pair. Harding’s kit looked positively tiny compared to Penn’s monstrous set up the night before but he still produced an impressive array of sounds with his cymbal scrapes and shimmers and the gentle rustle of bells and shakers.
The more sombre “Landmarks” began in ballad mode with the sound of Canniere’s thoughtful, sometimes mournful, trumpet playing before opening up with a flowingly lyrical solo from the consistently excellent Tjalve. Canniere’s subsequent solo then steered the music in a spikier, more challenging direction.
“Dog Of The Day”, a dedication to Jensen’s pet, strayed closer to orthodox bebop territory, a lively blues infused offering with breezy solos from Tjalve, Jensen and Canniere fuelled by the bright and imaginative drumming of Harding.
The first half then closed with “Hep Hep”, a trio piece for trumpet, bass and drums only with lively solos from all three protagonists.
Set Two also began with a trio, this time of piano, bass and drums on “Mum Melody”, the closing track on the album and a dedication by Jensen to his late mother, Linda. Introduced by Tjalve’s gently lyrical solo piano it proved to be an attractive piece with a strong melody and also included a richly resonant and melodic bass solo tastefully accompanied by Tjalve’s supportive piano chording and Harding’s delicately brushed drums.
“Followed By Thirteen” was also inspired by Jensen’s mother, specifically her deeply held superstitions. Canniere’s use of muted trumpet added a melancholy air to the opening exchanges but overall this was a more exuberant and muscular performance than the recorded version with Tjalve really digging in and expressing an unexpected joyousness on a lengthy and expansive solo.
Jensen informed us that the title of “The Milden Hall Museum” actually referred to a friend’s house in London which was akin to stepping into a 1950s time warp. The music itself was reflective and gently whimsical with thoughtful solos by Canniere, Tjalve and Jensen.
“A Wave Goodbye” was based around Jensen’s knotty bass groove and Harding’s subtle Latin inflections and included brightly fluent and adventurous solos from Canniere and Tjalve, both musicians exhibiting a genuine exuberance as they took the opportunity to stretch out.
The evening concluded on an elegiac note with the quiet, fragile beauty of “Schmetterling”, the title the German word for “Butterfly”. Introduced by Jemsen’s solo bass the piece featured the mournfully elegant and stately trumpeting of Canniere, the gentle lyricism of Tjalve and Jensen himself providing the final solo of the night on double bass.
Although sparsely attended this was a night that produced some excellent music with each member of the group still giving of their best. In purely musical terms the performance was almost as good as the night before but inevitably the evening was less of an “event”. Those that were there thoroughly enjoyed it with the stay aways definitely missing out. Jensen’s group maintained their integrity in difficult circumstances and I’d have no hesitation in going to see this band or any of its individual members again. Many of the pieces differed significantly from the recorded versions, evidence of the true jazz spirit. Nevertheless the album “Qualia”, plus the other recorded output of Jensen, Canniere and Tjalve is also recommended. Ironically Jensen forgot to bring his stock of albums with him, however Tjalve and Canniere both remembered theirs!
Thanks to the musicians for speaking with me afterwards. Tjalve told me that his solo career has taken something of a back seat due to parental responsibilities (he has two young sons) but that he hopes to record again shortly. On the evidence of tonight’s performance plus the quality of the “Qualia” and “Red Kite” recordings this should be well worth waiting for.
I am also indebted to Dempsey’s regular Martin Healey for emailing me a selection of fantastic photographs from both the City of Poets and Followed By Thirteen gigs, two of which I have used to illustrate my reviews. Thank you Martin for both your photographs and your company.
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