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Lars Danielsson Group

Lars Danielsson Group; Liberetto III, Wigmore Hall, London, 19/11/2019 ( EFG London Jazz Festival).

Photography: Photography: Photograph sourced from the EFG London Jazz Festival website; [url=][/url]

by Ian Mann

November 28, 2019


Danielsson has a unique approach to composition and the music sounded marvellous, with each member of this well balanced, tightly knit all star group making a telling contribution.

Lars Danielsson Group, Liberetto III, Wigmore Hall, London, 19/11/2019

(Part of the EFG London Jazz Festival)

Lars Danielsson – double bass, composer Gregory Privat – piano, John Parricelli – guitar, Magnus Ostrom - drums

The Swedish bassist, cellist and composer Lars Danielsson has enjoyed a long fruitful association with the Munich based ACT record label, founded by producer Siggi Loch, releasing his first album for the label as a leader in 2004.

The roots of the Liberetto project lay in the highly creative alliance that he formed with the Polish pianist Leszek Modzder, with whom he collaborated on the duo recording “Pasodoble” (2007). The pianist remained for 2009’s “Tarantella”, a quintet recording made under Danielsson’s leadership that featured a stellar international band that also included Norwegian trumpeter Mathias Eick, British guitarist John Parricelli and American drummer Eric Harland.

The excellent “Tarantella” can be seen as the forerunner of the “Liberetto” series that Danielsson has since recorded for ACT. With Mozdzer concentrating on a highly successful solo career Danielsson assembled a new international group for the first “Liberetto” recording, released in 2012. Parricelli remained in place with the Armenian born Tigran Hamasyan taking over the piano chair as Arve Henriksen replaced his compatriot Eick on trumpet and former E.S.T. drummer Magnus Ostrom came in behind the kit.

The second “Liberetto” album from 2014 saw the group reduced to a four piece following Henriksen’s departure and the quartet format remained for 2017’s “Liberetto III” but with the French pianist Gregory Privat replacing Hamasyan, the second of Danielsson’s pianists to choose to concentrate on a solo career.

Away from the Liberetto group Danielsson has recorded prolifically for ACT as a collaborator or sideman including recordings with trumpeter Paolo Fresu, trombonist Nils Landgren, drummer Wolfgang Haffner, vocalists Caecilie Norby and Youn Sun Nah and many more.

Prior to his tenure with ACT Danielsson, born in 1958, worked with many leading American and European musicians including saxophonist Dave Liebman, guitarists John Abercrombie and John Scofield, pianist Bobo Stenson, drummers Jon Christensen and Jack DeJohnette among many others.

The Liberetto series of recordings have always placed a strong emphasis on melody while seeking to blend the influences of jazz, classical chamber music and European folk music. Danielsson studied classical cello before turning to jazz and picking up the double bass. It was perhaps as a result of these classical leanings that tonight’s performance, part of the 2019 EFG London Jazz Festival, took place in the refined surroundings of Wigmore Hall, one of London’s leading classical music venues.

The performance began with “Nikita’s Dream”, the freely structured intro featuring the sound of Danielsson’s bowed bass. Ostrom’s brushed drum grooves, Privat’s melodic piano motifs and the glistening textures of Parricelli’s guitar then helped to establish an overall feel of lyricism allied to a sense of Nordic melancholy. Danielsson’s highly developed melodic sensibilities were immediately in evidence on his introductory bass solo, his feature followed by a similarly tasteful guitar solo from Parricelli and a more expansive outing from Privat at the piano.

Dating back to the first “Liberetto” recording “Orange Market” proved to be more sprightly with Privat and Parricelli doubling up on the melody lines prior to Danielsson’s typically tuneful bass solo. As the music gathered momentum Privat’s piano solo became feverishly inventive and it was the Frenchman who proved to be the real discovery of the evening. He was the only member of the quartet that I hadn’t seen or heard before and his playing was a revelation. I’d certainly be interested in investigating his work in other contexts.  Privat leads his own trio and in 2016 released his own album, “Family Tree” on ACT, a recording also featuring the talents of bassist Linley Marthe and drummer Tilo Bertholo. In the meantime “Orange Market” featured further soloing from Danielsson, plus a well received drum feature from Ostrom, who deployed brushes almost throughout the evening.

The next piece was unannounced, beginning in ballad mode with Parricelli’s gentle acoustic guitar introduction, subsequently joined by piano, bass and drums as the piece began to unfold, with the delicate interplay between the instruments consistently absorbing the listener’s attention. Danielsson’s bowed bass solo was both melancholic and beautiful, his tone high pitched (comparatively) and almost cello like.

Dedicated to the Ukrainian city “Lviv” was sourced from the latest album and was clearly a crowd favourite with a smattering of applause breaking out as members of the audience recognised the melody.  Ostrom laid down a busily brushed rhythm that resembled his patented “E.S.T. groove”, this proving to be the perfect jumping off point for Privat’s virtuoso piano pyrotechnics and one of Danielsson’s more muscular pizzicato bass excursions. Ostrom’s final drum flourish then helped to elicit the loudest cheers of the night thus far.

The first set concluded with “Passacaglia”, played here in 4/4 rather than the usual waltz time Privat’s rippling piano arpeggios were accompanied by the keening, eerie textures of Parricelli’s guitar with the Frenchman also featuring as a soloist alongside the leader on dexterously plucked double bass.

I was a little surprised that an interval was called at this venue but maybe it was just as well as the break seemed to galvanise the band and drive them on to even greater heights in the second half. With the exception of Privat everybody had played it relatively cool in the first set but the second half was to feature a greater degree of dynamic contrasts, particularly towards the end of the show when all the musicians seemed to shed their inhibitions.

Set two began began with a new tune titled “Fifth Grade”, introduced by Privat at the keyboard and with Ostrom’s brushed drum grooves fuelling yet another feverish solo from the Martinique born pianist. Also prominent as a soloist was the consistently melodic leader on double bass.

The evening really came alive as an event with Danielsson’s unaccompanied bass extemporisations around the Joni Mitchell song “Both Sides Now”. This was simultaneously technically dazzling and jaw-droppingly beautiful, an irresistible combination that held the Wigmore audience totally spellbound. One could have heard the proverbial pin drop.

Danielsson dedicated the beautiful, and eminently hummable, melody of “Agnus Dei” to the memory of his late mother. Propelled by the gently shuffling grooves of Ostrom’s brushed drums the piece reminded me of Pat Metheny’s “Last Train Home” and incorporated delightfully mellifluous solos from Privat and Danielsson.

Danielsson described the next piece as being “stressful and fast”. I missed the title but from reading other accounts of the show suspect that it may have been called “Up the Tunnel”. In any event it saw the quartet upping both the pace and the energy levels with Ostrom’s increasingly propulsive   drumming leading the way. There were more Metheny-esque elements in Parricelli’s coruscating guitar solo, setting the tone for the leader on bass and Privat with a bravura and highly percussive piano solo.

The intensity was maintained on the final tune of the second set, a piece introduced by the military rhythms of Ostrom’s brushed drums and Privat’s slivers of piano melody. Parricelli’s slow burning solo introduced a subtle and unexpected blues influence before Danielsson’s solo provided the link into a riff based closing section that continued to exhibit a distinct rock feel and attitude. Metaphorically this chamber jazz group had suddenly swapped their matching suits for leather jackets.

This rousing finale had the audience on their feet and an encore was inevitable, with the quartet winding things down again with another gorgeous ballad featuring the melodic and dexterous soloing of Danielsson and Parricelli.

This performance by the Danielsson group has been well received by audience and critics alike. I heard many favourable comments immediately after the show and the online reviews have been universally positive. I was at the very back of the Hall and didn’t have the best view of the players but the music sounded marvellous, with each member of this well balanced, tightly knit all star group making a telling contribution. Danielsson’s best soloing came on “Both Sides Now” but his presence as the composer of virtually all the other material was arguably even more important than his role as a musician. He has a unique approach to composition that has helped to make his music both distinctive and popular, a rare combination. Parricelli grabbed his soloing opportunities with both hands and the effervescent and exuberant Privat impressed throughout, often getting to his feet during his frequently dazzling solos. Also key to the success of the evening was Ostrom, one of the world’s most distinctive drummers, who drove the music with subtlety and inventiveness and an understated power, largely deploying brushes alone, an impressive feat.

Even those who have found Danielsson a little bloodless on record were impressed by this evening’s performance, particularly in the shorter, but less inhibited second set where the matchless beauty of “Both Sides Now” opened the floodgates for a genuinely rousing final section.

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