CD review

Alex Jønsson – “Heathland”

Alex Jønsson – Heathland
(AJ04CD4. CD review by Mike Collins)

Danish guitarist Alex Jønsson has a burgeoning reputation in his own country, performing with his own and a panoply of other bands including Jakob Sorensen’s Bagland, whose last release was reviewed by LJN last year. Heathland, Jønsson’s fourth album under his own name, is a distinctive and atmospheric session.

The trio, completed by Jens Mikkel Madsen on bass and Andreas Skamby on drums, move through the nine Jønsson originals with the confidence in each other to let pieces tumble and evolve, quietly insistent grooves to sit and hook the listener, slow arcing phrases to linger and ripen. It’s unhurried, expansive music that nevertheless never lacks momentum and tension.

The title track starts with the patter of cymbals and a distorting melodic motif from the guitar that Madsen and Jønsson ruminate over and develop, twisting around each other whiles Skamby’s drums skitter and nudge them along. Stillness builds from a quietly assertive, marching groove, unearthly cries and squeals from the guitar giving way to a solo of twisting lines. … and Darkness Crept In is as rocky as they get with distorting chords building on a crunching riff. Re: Herr Sehr Schwe bursts into a slightly demented country prance whilst in between Out of Shape explores and gradually distorts a spooky phrase, Icicles and Paul sketch new atmospheres relying on loose, swirling interaction.

If the tone and feel of the music comes from the interaction of the trio and Jønsson’s writing, it’s the guitar’s which frames the sound, a resonant electric timbre that nods at steel and slide guitar with eye’s fixed firmly on a blasted Danish heath. There’s lyricism to the occasional melancholic leaning of the music and the sense of big opens spaces, with just a glint of humour in the eye.

Jønsson and the trio are painting with sound as much as they are playing tunes, making for a compelling set.

Mike Collins is a pianist and writer based in Bath, who runs the jazzyblogman site. Twitter @jazzyblogman

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