Søren Nissen ‘Departures’ (Private Press) 4/5

Bassist Søren Nissen has spent some time travelling in India and teaching at the Global Music Institute in New Delhi. His experiences seem to have informed the music on this seven track release even to the extent of including snatches from speeches given by the philosopher, speaker and writer Jiddu Krishnamurti focussing on the importance of spiritual discovery.
The eastern influences are taken further with the inclusion of a table in the instrumentation. Motifs from Indian classical music are also employed throughout the album, sometimes in an ambient vein and sometimes more energetically. Notwithstanding this, the jazz sensibility shines through. Synthesiser is also employed, thus seeming to bring the musical worlds of both the east and the west together in harmony.
This is certainly an assured debut recording. Nissen is clearly an accomplished musician playing not only acoustic bass but synthesiser and Fender Rhodes piano, James Hill plays piano, Fender Rhodes and Juno (a Roland synthesiser), Jeff LaRochelle is on tenor saxophone, Agneya Chikte plays tabla and percussion on some tracks and Ian Wright is behind the drums.
Nissen is still a young man in a short space of time has established himself as a premier bass player on the Toronto jazz scene. He describes his journey through India as a life changing experience. Not only was it a physical departure from home but also a psychological one too. The memories from the trip live on both in Søren’s memory and in these songs.
I particularly enjoyed the more considered pieces, such as ‘Mantra’ which has a relaxed feel. ‘Himalayan Constellation’ also has a wonderful feel. The saxophonist’s full bodied tone is best exhibited here. ‘Universal Exchanges’ is another fine piece, beginning delicately but soon building up a head of steam. ‘Alternatives’ is thoughtful and shows off the ethnic percussion to fine effect. For a true example of east meets west, ‘Eyes of Riya’ can’t be bettered. This is a lengthy, almost ambient piece which builds very slowly and includes a fabulous table and synthesiser section at about the half way mark. The leader’s bass gets ample space throughout the album and is really the beating heart of the album.
This is clearly a well-considered labour of love from Nissen and with such an auspicious debut album one is left wondering what is next to come in his discography. Let’s all hope that we don’t have to wait too long for the next thrilling instalment.

Alan Musson