CD REVIEW: Erik Thormod Halvorsen Sextet – Social Call

Erik Thormod Halvorsen Sextet – Social Call
(Losen LOS189-2. CD Review by Peter Jones)

It’s a truism, but jazz musicians usually set out to impress with their recordings. There may be funny time signatures, high-velocity playing, discordant passages, and so on. And it’s quite understandable – after all, your album is your calling card when you go looking for work, and if you’ve got the chops, you’re keen to show them off. Norwegian trumpeter/flugelhornist Erik Thormod Halvorsen, however, does not subscribe to this philosophy. As he himself points out, his music is designed to be lyrical, melodic and audience-friendly. And, sure enough, Social Call is as warm and comfortable as an old pair of slippers, whilst somehow avoiding blandness.

Four of the 10 tracks are originals, the rest an assembly of standards, not all them familiar. Most of the arrangements are written by the leader, and cunningly succeed in creating the sense of a larger ensemble. The sextet inflates to the size of a cricket team on two tunes – Body and Soul, and Monk’s Ruby, My Dear – with the addition of five extra brass players. Even with this added firepower it still sounds intimate and friendly. Those qualities, plus the aforementioned lyrical and melodic ones, certainly describe Little K, a gentle waltz somewhat in the vein of A Child Is Born, written by bassist Agnar Aspaas, with a lovely tenor solo from Dave Edge, followed by a fast, fluent and equally melodic one from guitarist Frode Kjekstad. And having written it, the bassman naturally gets a solo too.

Other highlights include Halvorsen’s own composition Exit Summer, whose title suggests we’re in for a spot of Nordic gloom; but instead the tone is light and nostalgic, as it mutates from a ballad to a cha-cha. The title track, by Gigi Gryce, features unison trumpet and tenor, and it swings along effortlessly, as light as a soufflé, while Michel Legrand’s Watch What Happens is played upswing rather than the usual latin.

There are albums you approve of but never actually want to listen to. Then there are albums that may seem a little too easy on the ear, but you find yourself playing them quite a lot. No prizes for guessing which category Social Call falls into.

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