Henrik Jensen’s ‘Followed By Thirteen’
(“Qualia” album launch at Arts Ark, Southwark. 17th July 2013. Review by Alyn Shipton)
A converted barge on the Thames, just downstream of Tower Bridge, is an idyllic spot to hold an album launch, but a potentially problematic place to listen to music. Planes coming in to City Airport turn above and make their final noisy approach, jabbering commentators volubly explain the sights on passing tourist boats, bigger vessels sound their horns, and their wash sends the stage (and audience) swaying as they pass. A brisk onshore wind catches music and music stands unawares.
But bassist Henrik Jensen’s quartet not only overcame all this, they twice pulled off a minor miracle and created such an atmosphere of musical intensity that the surroundings paled away, and we were able to focus on musical interplay of rare depth and sensitivity. In both cases, it was daring to play a ballad that created the magic. First, the brooding atmosphere of The Mildenhall Museum was set up by melancholic exchanges between Jensen’s bass and the sensitive, intelligent piano of Esben Tjalve, before the mournful trumpet of Andre Canniere slowly allowed the theme to expand and grow. I was captivated by his inventive recent album Forward Space but this quartet is an equally perfect setting for his poised playing.
The final ballad, Schmetterling, took the tempo down even further. The passing crowds on Butler’s Wharf who had their attention drawn by the jaunty boppish sounds of pieces like Dog of the Day or The Post Office floating across the water strained to hear, but their attention was rewarded. Tjalve’s accessible but knotty playing pulls in every listener, and his rapport with Jensen and drummer Pete Ibbotson again made the background distractions irrelevant as the music unfurled.
The album itself is a rewarding listen, the tracks I’ve singled out here being joined by the title number — a reference to the way superstition has dogged Jensen’s life — as standout compositions and performances. And for someone so concerned with black cats, taking in washing after dark and the ominous qualities of thirteen, Jensen must have been pleased with the portents when the passing stern-wheeler ‘Dixie Queen’ — a symbol of jazz’s past if ever there was one — blasted on her horns and Tower Bridge magnificently opened behind the band, a stream of sunlight shining through from the city beyond. A harbinger, one hopes, for the future success of both band and album.