Album reviews

Morten Schantz Trio – ‘Passenger’

Morten Schantz Trio – Passenger

(April Records – APR103CD. Album Review by Graham Spry)

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Pianist Morten Schantz has been active on the Danish jazz scene for many years and has performed regularly at Sounds of Denmark at Pizza Express Live. He first made his mark in the UK in 2019 with the release of Godspeed, his exceptional album on Edition Records that featured Scandinavian superstars Marius Neset and Anton Eger. Since then, Eger and he have continued to explore electronics and adventurous drum rhythms in the experimental jazz group RKDIA, but Schantz has also engaged in the acoustic jazz tradition with his Morten Schantz Trio.

Passenger is the trio’s third album and their first since Unicorn in 2014. In addition to Schantz on piano, the Copenhagen-based trio consists of Morten Ankarfeldt on double bass and Janus Templeton on drums. In Ian Patterson’s impressive sleeve note, Schantz gratefully acknowledges the unique dynamics and scope for improvisation of a trio that’s been together for over ten years, but nonetheless this is very much a Morten Schantz album for which he has composed all the tunes. As also mentioned in the sleeve note, the title of the album refers not only to the album’s final track but also describes the album’s general theme of music inspired by Schantz’s oriental travels as a 20 year old backpacker.

Schantz has a gift for melody and rhythm which comes across as much in an acoustic setting as in his electronic projects. This is most evident on the title track, Passenger, which has much of the epic sweep apparent in Godspeed and is the only track on which Schantz plays electric piano. The larger sound comes from the addition of Ayi Solomon on percussion and three other musicians on various horns. This tune has beautiful melodic passages that ascends towards a mid-song climax and then fades wistfully away towards the album’s end perhaps on an aeroplane’s contrails.

The album’s theme is evident in the titles of the other tunes such as the opener, Mountaineer, which begins quite softly on Schantz’s piano and is later propelled forward by Solomon’s energetic percussion. Relative calm returns on Hidden Island followed by the lively percussion-led Ankarhelten. The next track, Pokhara, celebrates the beauty of the Nepalese Himalayas and whose epic sound resonates with the title track and again features Schantz’s trio accompanied by the four guest musicians. There is a freer more angular feel to Dynasty and The Yes Cat that is followed by the album’s penultimate track, Apia, a delightfully lyrical track inspired by the sunshine and joy of the Samoan Islands.

The album was recorded in Copenhagen in May 2020, right at the peak of the pandemic, so the theme of travels abroad will have been more in the memory than in the moment. The album cover features a bare-foot Schantz sat in a lotus position wearing a colourful oriental tunic – perhaps there is a nod here to the cover of Alice Coltrane’s Journey in Satchidananda. However, although Passenger is no homage to Coltrane’s music, the cover emphasises that the experience of travel that Schantz is invoking is not a package holiday tourist trip, but rather the spiritually inspiring beauty of tropical landscapes and majestic mountain scenery.

Morten Schantz, a C. Bechstein artist, will be touring Passenger in Denmark. He is appearing with Anton Eger as RKDIA in Southampton on 14 September and London on 16 September. (FEATURE WITH BOOKING LINKS)

LINK: Buy Passenger (Release date 16 September)

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