Jørgen Emborg Quartet feat. Mathias Heise ‘What’s left?’ (Stunt) 3/5

Danish pianist and all round keyboardist Jørgen Emborg has been composing and performing since the 1970s, but in the 1980s was the principal writer for the jazz-rock group Frontline. However, his more straight ahead jazz credentials were earned as a member of both the Danish Radio Big band and the Swedish Tolvan Big Band. Here, we find him in a smaller chamber group setting with harmonica player Mathias Heise on an all original set of compositions. rather than being an exotic add-on to proceedings, the sound of the harmonica is an integral part of the band sound and offering sympathetic support are Peter Hansen on bass and Karsten Bagge on drums.

In general, the pieces are deeply melodic with the leader standing out. This writer appreciated the freshness of approach on, ‘Sudden exit’, with some lovely blues inflections. The playing on the ballad, ‘Wait for the sign’, is both refined and sensitive with piano and harmonica combining well. In contrast, the opener, ‘Snowballs and sleigh bells’, is bright and breezy in outlook. Toots Thielmans has clearly been an influence on the thinking of both Emborg and more particularly, Heise. It comes as little surprise, then, that homage should be paid to the sadly departed Belgian musician with, ‘Song for Toots’. Nothing too revolutionary here, but an extremely enjoyable listening experience nonetheless.

Tim Stenhouse