Henrik Jensen’s Followed By Thirteen – Affinity
(Babel Label BDV19157. CD review by Adrian Pallant)
Purity and luminosity characterise Affinity, the third release from Henrik Jensen’s Followed By Thirteen. As discovered in the double bassist’s previous albums as leader – Qualia (2013) and Blackwater (2016) – his original compositions have an accessible attraction with a sure foundation in jazz tradition.
Alongside original band members Esben Tjalve (piano) and Pete Ibbetson (drums), Jensen welcomes the idiosyncratic trumpet/flugelhorn voice of Rory Simmons (Jamie Cullum, Brass Mask, Monocled Man, etc.) for this single day’s studio recording. With that level of immediacy and confidence, a bright, instinctive thread runs through this quartet, alluded to in the album title as well as the vibrant oil-on-canvas cover which was painted in live ‘dialogue’ between the bassist and artist Aurelie Freoua at the Vortex Jazz Club, London.
Simmons’ own projects often explore his instruments’ alternative capabilities, but in this line-up his sound is clean, fluent, sometimes doleful. Ibbetson’s rhythms and ornamentations are incisive; and whether intentional or not, the piano’s timbre can display a ‘detuned jangle’ reminiscent of classic 1960s recordings. These are all elements which contribute positively to the quartet’s ‘personality’ – and, without show or bluster, it’s the solid precision of Jensen’s technique which especially charms.
Enter Chaoyang Park (in Beijing) to hear a rich, explorative, chordal bass solo which always satisfyingly resolves to the root, while Jensen’s improvisations also introduce The Belsham Palm, a wistful episode whose lithe piano exemplifies the entire recording’s clarity. Danish compatriots Henrik and Espen studied together at the Royal Academy, and their connection shows – so we hear an integral stability and assuredness. But it’s no surprise that this quartet can also move, as Hi Dee Dee’s memorable, almost hygge-evoking motifs gradually find greater momentum, with Simmons and Ibbetson meting out the fervour.
The album has a number of dedicatees, most specifically, a celebration of the life of Jensen’s aunt Jyta; and Gentle Giant, with steady bass-and-piano footing and Kenny Wheeler-like flugel tones, pays beautiful homage to pianist friend Paolo Losi who passed away in 2018. Droll, coolly swinging Darvin (initially with a touch of Alan Hawkshaw’s Chicken Man (aka Grange Hill!)) raises the feel-good, based on straight-ahead walking bass – evidently a lot of fun. Villa Helene’s balmy, Spanish swell allows space for Simmons to roam; and picturesque, bluesy Four for a Boy – for the leader’s newborn son – is led by a prominently grooving double bass style (in unison with piano, à la Phronesis) which occasionally might even hint at Jensen’s electric-bass beginnings.
Contemporary jazz’s topography is now detailed with crossover diversity and electronic effects – but it’s just as rewarding to hear a quartet that continues to present and interpret new composition in an environment of acoustic finesse and, indeed, affinity.
Affinity is released on 20 March