Album reviews

ZAV (Jesper Zeuthen / Jacob Anderskov / Anders Vestergaard): ‘Nocturnal’

ZAV (Jesper Zeuthen / Jacob Anderskov / Anders Vestergaard) – Nocturnal
(ILK Music ILK345, Review by Frank Graham)

Uniting three generations of Danish improvisers, ZAV’s music is a visceral combination of heart-on-the-sleeve immediacy, fractured lyricism and rapid-fire interplay. Elder statesman Jesper Zeuthen (alto saxophone, saw) rose to prominence in the late ‘60s with proto-jazz rockers Blue Sun, rising again in the ‘80s with Pierre Dørge’s New Jungle Orchestra. ILK Music co-founder and RMC professor Jacob Anderskov (piano) can be heard in a bewildering number of ensembles and is now a vital contemporary voice, while youngest member Anders Vestergaard (drums) is a serial collaborator who can also be heard in the bands Yes Deer and Girls In Airports.

This is the trio’s third album together, and it’s a very different proposition to the fiery free-jazz of 2018’s Out Of The Spectacle or 2020’s equally extrovert Ecstatic Embrace. The seven nocturnally themed pieces seem to inhabit a hermetically sealed sound world, each offering a slightly different perspective on that magical and sometimes sinister time of the day where even the smallest sound can assume great weight and significance.

Opening with “Dewfall”, the trio draw the listener inwards with a soothing balm of gamelan-like percussion and Cage-ian piano preparation, a perfect foil for Zeuthen’s declamatory alto, which hints at the spirituality of late ‘trane. “Tusmørke” (twilight) is a little more animated, a crepuscular ballad with suggestive blues connotations and a pleasing angularity. Vestergaard’s irregular pulses and the dull thud of Anderskov’s preparations cast Zeuthen in a striking phosphorescent lighton “Nocturnal Beings”, while the saxophonist’s ghoulish musical saw provides atmospheric counterpoint to the heavy rumbling backdrop on “Phantom”.

Elsewhere the repeating chords and unpredictable durations of “Moonbeam Crystals” seem to be a nod to composer Morton Feldman. Zeuthen’s nasally solo on “Cosmic Eyes” is a real cry from the heart, his woody timbres recalling Brötzmann’s tárogató. At around ten minutes in length the closing “Ceremony” is the album’s longest piece. Never quite fully combusting, it’s a masterclass in latent musical power and surely one of the most smouldering free ballads you’ll hear this year.

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Nocturnal is released today 22 September 2023.

LINK: ILK Records

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