Live review

Morten Schantz Godspeed at Sounds of Denmark Revisited

Morten Schantz Godspeed
(Pizza Express Dean Street. Sounds of Denmark Revisited. 16 October 2019. Review by Mary James)

Thousands of miles together in planes, weeks away from home, gigs in Copenhagen, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, South Korea and finally London have left their mark on Morten Schantz Godspeed and it’s a transformative one. And we were the lucky ones to experience this metamorphosis up close at the sold out opening night of Sounds of Denmark Revisited. At the final gig of their epic tour, the piano trio gave us an intense joyful experience which worked perfectly in the intimate space. It’s a complex anthemic sound that could easily scale up to a festival stage or club.

Morten Schantz Godspeed (Photo: Cat Munro)

From cathedral organ synths to dizzying cascades of notes this is music that is exhilarating and meditative at the same time, dense yet light filled. It is always wonderful to see musicians smile at each other whilst playing and that the warmth spread to us, people around me visibly wanting to dance and reluctantly confining themselves to arm waving. This is a band which should be heard under the stars (preferably) or in clubs where there is space for dancing.

The set opened with Federer Happier, a tribute to Schantz’s idol. His other idol is Bach. You can hear the influence of both actually. Federer’s lightness of footwork and perfect balance is evidenced in the lightning changes of mood, pace and direction, and Bach in graceful baroque piano introductions which lead into synth-heavy grooves then in a heartbeat tumble you freefall into space. It was very exciting!

When last heard in London a couple of years ago, Morten Schantz Godspeed was an excellent piano trio of world class individuals with a distinctive line in high energy hypnotic grooves and wonderful tunes. Now it is a true partnership, as tight as a rivet, the melodies just as gorgeous, with solos barely needed (or noticed), so organic is the empathy, everything in the service of the music not the individual. The eponymous album lineup features Marius Neset on sax and Anton Eger on drums. Eger remains, as powerful as ever, sometimes striking the air silently, like an engine revving before the lights change to green. There was no sign of trepidation of stepping into anyone’s shoes for Josh Arcoleo whose caramel-toned tenor sax and electric bass have added another tool in Schantz’s already formidable palette of emotions, textures and layers. There was a beautiful classical introduction which left me wanting to hear Schantz plus synths in solo concert.

The band plans to record in February 2020. It will be worth the wait if this euphoric live experience is anything to go on.

Mary James, who lives in Gloucestershire, is a jazz promoter working with John Law and others. Twitter @maryleamington

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