Lars Danielsson ‘Liberetto III’ (ACT) 4/5

Bassist Lars Danielsson has built up a reputation as one of the finest jazz musicians in Scandinavia and this new release merely enhances that point of view. The band have been together since 2012, but there is one departure and new arrival in the piano spot. Tigran has departed to engage on his own career, but in his place is one of the most impressive pianists to emerge in French-Caribbean Grégory Privat. His contribution along with the all round excellence of the main quartet is one of many highlights on this wonderfully cohesive recording that has a Spanish undercurrent, yet with several nods to Scandinavian and American jazz influences. The band members include John Parricelli on guitar, EST drummer/percussionist Magnus Öström and, boosting the original line-up, an unusual horn combination that works extremely well of trumpeter Arne Henriksen (who has recorded with ECM) and oboist d’amore Björn Bohlin, while Dominic Miller operates on largely acoustic guitar. All the original compositions are penned by the leader and impressive they are too.

An absolute treat is the piece, ‘Dawn Dreamer’, which owes a debt of gratitude to EST and is the prettiest of melodies with fine work in tandem between piano and guitar, and the most delicate of solos from Privat. That EST melodicism is equally present on, ‘Lviv’, with lovely phrasing once again from Privat. This writer especially warmed to the combination of Mediterranean as well as Scandinavian influences, and it is indeed the former that are heard on the graceful, ‘Mr Miller’, with the drumming immediately evoking Miles Davis’ ‘Sketches of Spain’. Meanwhile, echoes of Paco de Lucía surface on the flamenco guitar driven mid-tempo piece, ‘Taksim by Night’, while more obviously, ‘Sonata in Spain’, is a gorgeous flowing number with an empathetic rapport between piano and guitar and flamenco flavours abound here too.

More reposing hues are to be found on, ‘Agnus Dei’, with trumpet and English horn deployed in unison and with wordless vocals, or at least a sound resembling the human voice. On the opener, ‘Preludium’, trumpet and oboe d’armore feed off one another in some excellent trading of notes. Quite simply, this is one of the strongest new releases of the year thus far and is bursting at the seams with Mediterranean influences that effortlessly fuse with the native Scandinavian folk music that Lars Danielsson has grown up with.

Tim Stenhouse