Hans Ulrik – In a Sentimental Mood
(AMM Records. Album Review by Leonard Weinreich)
Some quality inherent in jazz music resonates deeply in Scandinavian soul, and nowhere as powerfully as Copenhagen. The city’s laid-back attitude has attracted many U.S. giants: Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz and Ben Webster among tenor players alone. Pianists included Duke Jordan, Horace Parlan and Kenny Drew. Thad Jones and Ernie Wilkins were there, as were Ed Thigpen and the irrepressible violinist, Stuff Smith. So, no surprise that an atmosphere so musically charged produced heavy hitters like John Tchicai, Marilyn Mazur, Jesper Thilo, Palle Mikkelborg, Sven Asmussen and Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen. One hell of a record.
And here’s another, providing evidence that the noble saxophone tradition continues. Hans Ulrik, ex-Berklee College of Music student and a Copenhagen saxophonist much-garlanded with awards, has recently released his 20th album under his leadership. Together with resolute support from three excellent local musicians, the carefully curated album is an eclectic collection of slow romantic songs best suited to slow romantic moments.
Ulrik’s unique saxophone sound, an amalgam of cool with sultry, is delivered with restrained passion, packed with potential to inspire abandon, especially when aided by his tight-knit fellow musicians. The title song, In A Sentimental Mood, a Duke Ellington masterpiece, permits Ulrik ample scope for thoughtful meditation and sets an ambient tempo for the album. Four of the songs are Ulrik’s own compositions: Welcome and Water, on which he plays soprano, the waltz-time Scilla and Epilogue. Two seasonal melodies have been supplied by the Michel Legrand songbook: the delightful You Must Believe In Spring (spare, elegant piano solo from Steen Rasmussen)and The Summer Knows. The lesser-heard Loose Caboose (euphemistically closer to a wobbly derriere than actual rolling stock?) by Henry Mancini, features Ulrik’s soprano over a gently chugging rhythm section.
Finally, two intriguing choices. The first, unfamiliar to your reviewer, is Se, nu stiger solen (which translates as ‘Behold, now the sun rises’) a song written by Danish clergyman Jakob Knudsen (text here) and set to music in 1915 by Oluf Ring and, in more recent times, incorporated as a hymn in the Danish Psalm Book. The second is more familiar, Lennon and McCartney’s Norwegian Wood. On the first, Ulrik pitches his stately soprano over breaking waves, represented by shimmering cymbals. And, on the second, he takes a keening soprano solo over undulating support, Rasmussen inserting a fine statement to enhance the mood. Whatever the treatment, both songs seem to conjure ancient Viking folk chants.
In the nicest possible way.
Hans Ulrik, tenor and soprano saxophones; Steen Rasmussen, piano; Johnny Åman, bass; Anders Mogensen, drums. Recorded June 2020 and October 2020 in “the Old Radio House” by Henrik Holst Hansen.
LINK: AMM Records on Bandcamp
Categories: Album review