Lage Lund ‘Terrible Animals’ CD (Criss Cross Jazz) 4/5

Norwegian born, New York based guitarist Lage Lund follows up his excellent 2015 trio outing “Idlewild” with “Terrible Animals”, a quartet recording featuring Lund on guitars and effects, Sullivan Fortner on piano, Larry Grenadier on bass, and Tyshawn Sorey drums.

“I basically could have recorded this right after Idlewild” Lund says. “The first time we played, I was like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s it’. I love this combination of people, and most if not all of this music started out as stuff I wrote for them. I felt we could play anything, and it would make sense.” And there is a genuine warmth and comfort that comes across on this session, one that does make the listener share the feeling that all the musicians feel at home and at ease with one another, thereby allowing them the freedom to express themselves.

The album is made up of ten Lund originals, with the overall feel being quite different to the guitarist’s previous trio release which featured bassist Ben Street and drummer Bill Stewart. Obviously with a change of personnel, along with the addition of piano, the dynamic changes. “Terrible Animals” sounds more polished than its predecessor, with strong tunes backed up by top drawer performances, but for me it lacks a little of the surprise and originality that came with “Idlewild”. But “Terrible Animals” is of course a different beast, and stands strong as Lund’s fifth release for Criss Cross Jazz.

Listeners familiar with the Pat Metheny/Brad Mehldau collaborations will perhaps share my thoughts on the similarities with this recording. The Metheny/Mehldau “Quartet” album especially (which also featured bassist Larry Grenadier), is as good a reference point as any for the music on this project. Both albums share a similar stylistic approach and the performances on both are pure quality.

“Hard Eights”, undoubtedly one of the strongest tunes on the album, opens proceedings. Lund’s use of effects is worthy of special mention; always cool and seamlessly integrated into the music itself, they add some wonderful textures and memorable moments. The intuitive combination of Lund’s guitar and Fortner’s piano is a feature throughout the album, the pair sharing an obvious empathic understanding. I love the way the quartet intuitively work together and build on ideas and melodies, before taking them off in different directions. The soloing is wonderful at times, as on “Suppressions”; cool, fluid and enchanting. Yet the tunes themselves are never far from their core, the writer’s inventive and sharp intelligence always creating a structured base from which everything else develops. “Octoberry” is a great example of how all of the musicians are free to explore and improvise around a theme. Lund’s quirkier side comes across well on tunes such as this, and indeed, the very impressive title track “Terrible Animals” leaves me wishing there was more of this to be heard. It’s on tunes such as these that for me, the individual character of Lund’s music really shines through. This is his voice, his thoughts, his expression, his music.

“Terrible Animals” is a strong release from Lund, adding to a glowing portfolio of music from the guitarist. He’s right up there with the best for me, and with a more frequent output that focusses on the individual character of his playing and writing, should be one of the leading lights of jazz guitar for many years to come.

Mike Gates

Read also: Lage Lund ‘Idlewild’ (Criss Cross Jazz) 5/5