Happy New Year!
February 22nd is also the beginning of several concerts featuring Danish popsinger Mark Linn at a series of concerts in Denmark. I've been arranging a repertoire of David Bowie, Peter Gabriel, Radiohead, Stevie Wonder a.m. Look in Calendar section for more details.
Happy to announce that songs from my a capella song cycle Song of Songs are still being performed. Scores can be downloaded in the compositions section. Most recently I Am The Rose Of Sharon has been performed by the New Jeysey Youth Choir and Let My Beloved Come Into His Garden will be performed by Den Akademiske Damkoren Linnea this year.
This Saturday Danish singer Mark Linn will perform on national television prime time in Peter Gabriels Mercy Street. I've been fortunate to write the strings for Mark's outstanding arrangement and cannot wait to follow the performance. Bring out the popcorn!
Big Band De Canarias new CD Hangin' Out is released featuring compositions by Kike Perdomo in my arrangements. It's been great working with the music and January will feature my third stay in Tenerife performing with the Big Band
Some jazz musicians do one thing well, but that one thing is all that they do. Not Soren Moller. Flexibility is the driving force that motivates this Danish-born pianist-composer to continually explore. Moller is as comfortable playing his original compositions in a duo or quartet configuration as he is interpreting the work of Miles Davis or Rachmaninoff in a trio format or leading a big band.
Nor does Moller believe in surrounding himself solely with collaborators who share similar backgrounds and outlooks. Although he is from Copenhagen, Moller delights in working with musicians from locales as far-flung as Mexico, Zimbabwe, New Orleans, Scandinavia and China, in order to bring a global glow to the music he envisions.
The result has quite often moved fans and critics alike. Moller’s recordings, including The Clouds Above (2009), A Tribute to Trane (2007), Playlist (2006) and Storytelling (2005) have all garnered praise, as have his heralded performances in Africa, Europe and New York City, where he has resided since 2002.
Now, on Christian X Variations, Moller’s latest release on Audial Records, this forward-thinking artist has created his most ambitious work to date, incorporating instrumentation and concepts from both the jazz and classical milieus. As he’s done several times since 2005, Moller called upon saxophonist Dick Oatts for assistance, and the pair is joined on the album by bassist Josh Ginsburg, drummer Henry Cole as well as Denmark’s Kirin Winds quintet.
Says Moller about the creation of Christian X Variations, “It was very important for me to have versatile musicians who are open to going in any direction. If you hear the record from beginning to end you'll hear several diverse influences.”
In addition, says Moller, who notes that his drummer is from Puerto Rico, the bassist from Brooklyn, and that the members of Kirin Winds represent four different nationalities, “I feel my Danish roots while composing, but I like the idea of people from all over the world interpreting the music I have composed. It creates a special sound that you can’t really find anywhere else, since it’s no longer attached to any geographical context.”
For Moller, the road to Christian X Variations has been a long and twisting one. Now 34, he began playing piano at age 8, and by 16 he was advanced enough to make a living as a piano teacher and accompanist. At 19, Moller was admitted to the Rhythmic Music Conservatory in Copenhagen, continuing his studies at the Manhattan School of Music in New York after his relocation to the city. In New York he studied with piano greats Kenny Barron, Garry Dial and Fred Hersch as a Fulbright Scholarship recipient.
Moller quickly built his reputation as a formidable piano talent within the highly competitive New York jazz scene, hosting an ensemble of some of the most talented musicians from the Manhattan School of Music at a performance at Carnegie Hall as part of the esteemed venue’s Workshop for Jazz Ensembles. Together with trombone player Chris Washburne and saxophonist Ole Mathisen, Moller founded the NYNDK Jazz Collective, an ensemble consisting of established musicians from both Scandinavia and New York. The group, which has toured extensively in Scandinavia and performed at Manhattan’s Jazz at Lincoln Center, was described by The New York Times’ Nate Chinen as a “pointedly cosmopolitan post-bop collective.”
During his prolific career, Moller has contributed compositions and arrangements to ensembles of various sizes, including the Soren Moller and Dick Oatts Duo and quartets featuring drummers Antonio Sanchez and Jason Marsalis. In 2007 Moller premiered his big band suite “Speeches” at the Copenhagen Jazz Festival. The original composition is based on historic speeches made by South African icon Desmond Tutu, the late Czech President Vaclav Havel, Robert Kennedy, Mahatma Gandhi, President Barack Obama and the late Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme at significant times in history.
The working relationship between Moller and Oatts has been an especially rewarding one through the years. Says Moller, “When we met at the Manhattan School of Music we immediately felt we had a connection that led me to later call on Dick for our first duo album, Storytelling. We shared the same interest in melodies and particular harmonic structures from certain classical periods: the Romantic period, Impressionism and also American Minimalism. The bond that ties us together is our enjoyment of expressing this. Oatts has worked mostly in the American tradition of jazz, recording many standards, and what I do takes him out of that repertoire. It’s a new way to hear him play and it comes across very strong. I think he is a fantastic player.”
On Christian X Variations, says Moller, both he and Oatts tried to achieve something new with their collaborative music, to bring each other to musical places they hadn’t visited before. “When you listen to my music I think the most apparent thing is how melodic it is,” says Moller. “I’m trying to appeal to your emotions through my music, and I’m looking for musicians who also have this interest in the music being melodic and emotional, and who know how to respond to music in an emotional way. I think this is one of the places where you can clearly hear a difference between musicians’ personalities. Do they approach the music in an emotional way or do they approach it in a more mathematical way? I hand-pick musicians that I know have an interest in emotion when they play.”
That emotion shines through on Christian X Variations, in the way Moller and Oatts interact with the stunning rhythm section of Ginsburg and Cole and with the Kirin Winds, whose colorings add several dimensions to the music, produced by Moller in Copenhagen in 2009. It’s a recording of great depth and significance, but Moller prefers to let it speak for itself. “The music of Christian X Variations is a celebration,” he says without elaboration, “and I hope people will celebrate it with us.”
Whether veering into menacing territory with his killer quartet ("Kvartet I") or creating intense aural ambrosia by mixing the Kirin Winds with the core group, Moller's music is never short of mesmerizing. Oatts smolders, zig-zags with puckish delight and pours his soul into the music at every moment, leaving nothing unsaid. Drummer Henry Cole brings intensity to the music, and an ability to make instantaneous, organic adjustments at every turn, and bassist Josh Ginsburg deserves the designation of storyteller over soloist, for his thoughtful contributions.
While Moller's piano work delivers big on passion and sets the tone for each piece, the greatest accolades should be reserved for his writing. Each of the three nonet numbers allows for different glimpses into Moller's mind. He sets up the winds with their own mid-track asides, which cover rhythmic soli statements and present comments that fuse his own musical ideals with those of Prokofiev, Stravinsky, and Philip Glass, and brings them together to bolster the proceedings at the end on "Nonet I."
The use of each member of the Kirin Winds is a separate cog in a beautifully harmonious wheel that moves beneath Oatts on "Nonet II," and he sets up a more exotic outlook with the winds as "Nonet III" unfolds. Of the two quartet pieces, "Kvartet II" is the clear winner on the excitement front. Moller creates a hard-driving, deeply bracing swing structure that would hold equal appeal to fans of late '60s and early '70s firebrands, McCoy Tyner enthusiasts, and those with more modern leaning ears.
With Christian X Variations, Soren Moller has created what is, thus far, the defining statement in his discography, and a record that's as close to perfect as it gets.
Track Listing: Nonet I; Kvartet I; Nonet II; Kvartet II; Nonet III.
Personnel: Soren Moller: piano; Dick Oatts: saxophones; Josh Ginsburg: bass; Henry Cole: drums; Jorunn Solloes: flute; Sai Kai: oboe; Nicolai Eghorst: clarinet; Jeppe Rasmussen: horn; Catarina Zeh: bassoon.
Nikolai Jakob Petersen, vibraphone
Nicola Carrara, marimba
Jason Marsalis, drums, Morten Ramsboel, bass, Fredrik Kronkvist, sax, Soren Moller, piano