US4 ‘My Scandinavian Blues: A Tribute to Horace Parlan’ CD + DVD (Stunt) 4/5

us4Among the various American jazz musicians who settled for a period in Scandinavia (Dexter Gordon being another example), pianist Horace Parlan has made it his permanent home since he met his future wife, Norma, there in 1972. Parlan was one of the house pianists at the iconic Blue Note label and recorded many memorable sides for them as both leader and sideman before later enjoying an extended tenure with Danish jazz label Steeplechase. In recent years, however, his health has deteriorated significantly, with the onset of type one Diabetes and the side effects of this debilitating condition. He is now in a wheelchair and blind. However, Horace Parlan has definitely not withdrawn from the musical community altogether and this is where this new project comes on board. It is a tribute to the music of Parlan, performed by a young Scandinavian band, with Adam Nussbaum providing some experienced American drumming skills, and is produced by Parlan himself, which gives it a more authentic flavouring. Recorded in Copenhagen in 2014, the music is at once an uplifting and joyous celebration of Parlan’s music with Swedish tenorist Tomas Franck coming across as a latter-day Stanley Turrentine crossed with the towering influence of John Coltrane. Soul-blues is the overriding style with a modern take on ‘In the spur of the moment’, originally recorded in 1961, fitting the medium to perfection, and featuring some relaxed tenor accompaniment while the bass and drum intro on, ‘Headin’ South’ leaves no trace of ambiguity as to the Latin feel, which is nonetheless understated in relation to the original version. Danish pianist Thomas Clausen has the unenviable task of filling Parlan’s original shoes, but his blues inflections making a swinging contribution to proceedings throughout, starting with opener, ‘Us 3’.

The greatest compliment one can pay is that this band sounds as though it is a consortium of top New York session musicians who have come together to offer a heartfelt homage to Parlan and the addition of a DVD with five numbers repeated as short music videos.The project was financed by Horace Parlan and he has bequeathed his composition rights to the Ben Webster Foundation, an organisation that annually recompenses a musician of importance to Danish jazz with a prize.

Tim Stenhouse