Anders Bast & the Bast’ards ‘Through Space & Time’ 180g Vinyl (Bastsax) 4/5

Perched somewhere between the modern jazz boughs and the contemporary twigs on the Danish oak tree of jazz sits this bright orange 180g vinyl (pink when raised to the light) offering from Anders Bast & the Bast’ards out of Copenhagen. It doesn’t take much effort with a band title like that to conclude the quartet are having a little fun here on ‘Through Space & Time’, due for release this coming Autumn, as Anders Bast on Saxophone teams up with Tobias Dall Mikkelsen on double bass, Michael Dalgas on drums and Thor Madsen on guitar for a nine-track Bast’ards debut.

Bast’s previous collaborations with luminaries Lars Jansson, Bob Moses and Django Bates and a spell beside Soweto Kinch adds credence to the evolving saxophonist, here with his fourth release as a bandleader donning a master degree in music from New England Conservatory under his belt. Tobias Dall Mikkelsen joins the group after a spell this year with the Niels Lan Doky Trio, Michael Dalgas has his own trio release this year called ‘Death Of A Tree’ and Thor Madsen is currently promoting his ‘Thor De Force’ – a productive group of individuals with their own sound and directions.

The needle goes down on ‘Fat, Sugar, Salt & Tragic’ with one of the stand-out piece on the album starting up proceedings. All four driving an exceptionally lyrical number that swings, with some creative sax work – the obvious choice for the opening track. At the midway point, Thor Madsen’s guitar technique swells and captivates and whilst there are no loose ends here, it’s his sound that I leave this piece clearest in my appreciation.

We drop back in bluesy form for ‘South of North Dakota’ as I scramble to prove to myself this, and all the other compositions here, are penned by Anders. Its familiarity can only be a testament to his writing skills.

‘Dance of the Possible Kiss’ delivers in huge proportions the skill of the four on this the longest piece, and perhaps the real gem, from the album, with a modern-creative aggression that could easily compete with most of the big names on the scene this year, before we close on side A with ‘Happiness Always Happens’, a rich European sounding number highlighting Michael Dalgas to these ears as one to keep an eye on. It’s a happy piece, a rhythmic delight to play over and over, as I have done so these past few weeks.

Flipping over the heavyweight orange disk, itself a sensory delight for this sunny feelgood listening experience, we are presented with ‘Think With Your Heart’, showcasing again Thor Madsen on guitar, whose style of playing is most enjoyable to these, otherwise electric guitar avoiding ears. Bast takes the number further while Mikkelsen and Dalgas work superbly together holding it all in place.

‘The Humble Warrior’ gives birth to Anders Bast’s solo saxophone explorations through overlays and his opportunity to express and experiment ahead of the album’s own foot shuffling ‘Hotter than…’ number. This has to be the go-to encore piece for the band on stage – uplifting.

The groove is making its final passes when ‘A Lot Of Hugging Going On’ enters the speakers. The pace has dropped and there’s even a groove going on as we escape to a happy place ahead of the final number, ‘Blues For The Beast Within’, which title aptly sums up the piece – a little darker than the rest of the album.

Standing out, listening to this album, has been the group’s flow and the production refinements. On the topic of production, I couldn’t be happier. The crispness of the drum made this experience a real pleasure. So often the music can be great but let down by the ‘sound’ – not so here. An excellent showcase for four musicians to release something that looks wonderful, with credit to Ella Mežule’s artwork, sounds great and delivers itself in a dynamic way with not a sign of illegitimacy anywhere!

Steve Williams