Claus Waidtløw with Aarhus Jazz Orchestra Feat. Jorge Rossy ‘The Seasons’ LP (Jaeger Community Music) 5/5

In recent years, saxophonist/composer Claus Waidtløw has established himself as one of Denmark’s leading composers in jazz. As one of the most sought after saxophonists in Denmark he has appeared on 60-plus albums and has performed with a whole host of jazz stars, including John Scofield, Carla Bley, Christian McBride, Kurt Elling and Bill Stewart, to name just a few. For this new release, Waidtløw collaborates with renowned drummer Jorge Rossy, bassist Daniel Franck, and big band Aarhus Jazz Orchestra (AJO), who have now been a solid component of the big band scene in Denmark for over 40 years.

As with Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, Waidtløw’s “Seasons” is inspired by nature’s cycle and consists of four movements. Each movement relates to one season and strives to capture the mood relevant to that particular time of year. The composer says; “Many are inspired by nature and composers from the classical world have written large works around the seasons, but within the rhythmic world, to my knowledge, not many have taken this theme on a larger orchestral context.” Each movement also features one of AJO’s strong soloists. Waidtløw, who was a member of the AJO for several years, focuses in this way on some of the excellent soloists from the orchestra.

Movement 1; “Spring” begins with lovely, uplifting brass, heralding the new life and growth that follows. A delicate piano segment leads us into the luscious orchestrations that cast their glorious spell; rich, melodic horns combining beautifully to create a life-affirming soundscape. A compelling, spellbinding piano solo encourages the bass and drums to join in, with the full orchestra eventually adding to the trio’s generous positivity.

Movement 2; “Summer” has an expectant air to the opening, with the soft and thoughtful atmosphere lightening up as the brass combine with an almost care-free realisation that summer is upon us. Shafts of sunshine intertwine as we enjoy a warm yet rousing sax solo over the heat of the glorious arrangements. Trombone and soprano sax continue the journey with soft horns floating on the gentle summer breeze.

“September”, a short bass interlude, walks us gently into Movement 3; “Autumn”. Discordant trumpets leave us in no doubt that summer has passed, and the nights are drawing in. More conversational in nature, it’s as if the music is questioning, asking us where we’re going, how do we feel, is this a foreboding, darker time we are entering? There’s a sadness here, a longing for former glories perhaps, before the mood lifts with the realisation that the early morning mist is clearing, paving way for a beautiful menagerie of rustic leaves, dancing light, and an enthralling trumpet solo offering new pathways to be explored.

“December”, interlude 2, thoughtfully meanders its way with expressive sax, bass and drums into Movement 4; “Winter”. The sumptuous horns offer a backdrop to a beautiful saxophone solo; a sax that soulfully sings its song of sympathy, with a sense of empathy offering spiritual guidance to the whole of mankind. And then life bursts forth once more, with excitement and glee, with a brazenly strong attitude that sparks fires of hope and joy in the heart.

Brilliant writing, wonderful arrangements and fabulous performances mark this album out as something special. Move over Vivaldi, there’s a Danish jazz master called Claus Waidtløw waiting to take your crown.

Mike Gates