by Ian Mann
January 31, 2019
An impressive piece of work that features a series of multi-faceted compositions and arrangements, allied to some excellent ensemble playing and exceptional soloing.
Kathrine Windfeld Big Band
(Stunt Records STUCD 17062)
Kathrine Windfeld is a Danish pianist and composer who leads a largely Scandinavian big band featuring musicians from various countries with shores on the Baltic Sea.
Born in 1984 Windfeld studied at the Department of Musicology in Copenhagen and at the Swedish jazz school Fridhems Folkhogskola. She was part of the progressive jazz quintet Gespenst before establishing her own ongoing sextet in 2011.
Windfeld subsequently studied at the Malmo Music Academy in Sweden where she established a quartet plus her first big band. In 2014 she moved back to Copenhagen where she set up the current KWBB and in 2015 she recorded her début big band album “Aircraft”.
The famous Danish pianist Niels Lan Doky offered the KWBB a residency at his Copenhagen jazz club and the band continued to hone their sound while playing with illustrious visiting guest musicians such as guitarists Mike Stern and Gilad Hekselman, saxophonist Seamus Blake and the UK’s own Gerard Presencer (trumpet).
The KWBB’s second album “Latency” was recorded in Copenhagen in 2017 and features a programme of eight Windfeld original compositions, two of them co-writes with one Mads Sandberg. On line information about Sandberg is hard to find, so Windfeld’s collaborator remains something of a figure of mystery.
Nevertheless, the new album has been critically acclaimed and has enjoyed greater international exposure than its predecessor. In 2018 the band toured successfully in Germany and the UK, including a successful performance at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho, London.
The album line up features;
Kathrine Windfeld – Piano, Director, Composer, Arranger (DK)
Andre Bak (DK), Rolf Thofte Sorensen (DK), Magnus Oseth (NO) - Trumpets & Flugels
Goran Abelli (SE), Mikkel Aargard (DK), Anders Larson (SE) – Trombones
Jakob Lundbak (DK) – Alto & Soprano Sax
Jakub Wiecek (PL) – Alto Sax
Roald Elm Larsen (DK), Ida Karlsson (SE) – Tenor Saxes
Toke Reines (DK) - Baritone Sax
Viktor Sandstrom (SE) - Guitar
Johannes Vaht (SE) – Bass
Henrik Holst (DK) – Drums
Windfeld favours a contemporary large ensemble sound incorporating elements of both jazz and rock, with the work of Mike Gibbs arguably representing a suitable comparison or reference point.
The rock influence is made apparent right from the start and the rousing opener “Rude Machine” with Sandstrom taking the first solo on turbo charged electric guitar. However it’s not all sound and fury, Windfeld demonstrates an excellent command of contrast and dynamics throughout the album and “Rude Machine” itself reveals compositional subtleties that belie its title. Further solos here come from Lundbak on fluent but incisive alto and Aagard on warmly rounded trombone.
The following “Elak” is more reflective with Windfeld’s own piano featuring more prominently in the arrangement. The horn voicings here are rich and warm but still inherently colourful, with the first solo being taken by Sorensen, who displays a Kenny Wheeler like eloquence on flugel horn.
He’s followed by Vaht on melodic and dexterous double bass.
The title track ups the energy levels once more with some punchy ensemble playing that takes old style big band and virtues places them in a thoroughly contemporary setting. Larsen’s tenor solo blends a big sound with an admirable fluency while in a neat compositional twist it’s actually the sound of Sandstrom’s electric guitar that calms things down again as he enters into a gently atmospheric dialogue with the leader’s piano.
“Leaving Portland” is a true ballad, introduced by Windfeld’s lyrical piano and featuring a lush horn arrangement that evokes appropriate images of yearning and nostalgia. It also acts as a feature for the melancholic but beautiful trumpet playing of Oseth.
The leader’s piano also ushers in “Roadmovie”, her rippling arpeggios joined by Vaht’s bass as the piece slowly gathers momentum. Sandstrom’s guitar subsequently takes on the underpinning role as the horns state the theme, this move also freeing up Windfeld for her first true solo of the set, a suitably flowing and expansive excursion at the piano. Lindbak follows on sinuously elegant soprano sax before a series of sumptuous ensemble passages, steered by the horns, lead to the final destination.
“Wasp” is the first of two joint compositions written by Windfeld and Mads Sandberg. A freely structured intro featuring the sounds of buzzy reeds and brass approximates the sound of a wasp’s nest before the music takes off on a swinging, rumba like groove with the sound of Reines’ baritone sax briefly attaining prominence in the arrangement. A more impressionistic passage follows featuring the tenor sax of soloist Karlsson who probes deeply against an edgy, unsettling backdrop that flirts with free jazz elements, with Karlsson deploying tongue slapping techniques towards the end of the solo. This is followed by a powerful, rock influenced passage before the sound of Vaht’ s bass leads to a jazzier conclusion. This is an unsettling but impressive piece that packs a lot of information into its five minutes forty seconds.
By way of contrast the gentle “December Elegy” is full of the kind of cool beauty that its title suggests. A lush and elegant score incorporates features for Oseth on velvet toned flugel and Windfeld’s own piano lyricism. The flexible Hansen, a driving force elsewhere, delivers suitably sympathetic brushed support.
The concluding “Double Fleisch”, another co-write by Windfeld and Sandberg, closes the album on an upbeat note. It’s a rumbustious piece that combines avant garde flourishes with a Mingus like energy and sense of subversion. The horn arrangements are boisterous and garrulous with trombonist Abelli the featured soloist. Sandberg’s involvement in the writing process certainly brings a different dimension to the pieces he is involved with, generally a harsher, more aggressive band sound and a willingness to experiment with free jazz and avant garde elements.
“Latency” is an impressive piece of work that features a series of multi-faceted compositions and arrangements allied to some excellent ensemble playing and exceptional soloing. The compositions explore a variety of styles, colours, textures and dynamics with Sandberg’s offerings adding a welcome touch of darkness and adventure to an already intriguing sonic palette.
Windfeld impresses in her various roles as pianist, composer, arranger and band-leader and it is to be hoped that she will bring the band back to UK shores sometime in 2019. On the evidence of this recording this is one of the best contemporary large ensembles around,
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