Bruce Mason Centre
Review: Graham Reid
Before an appreciative but disappointingly less-than-capacity audience last night, Denmarks prince of jazz bassists Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen aka NHOP - lead his trio through a diverse, diverting concert which touched
base, so to speak, with standards, the classical canon and exceptional NHOP originals.
It was concert long on musical accomplishment and affecting music, but which also sometimes failed to touch places of deep resonance as might have been expected.
The trio of NHOP, guitarist Ulf Wakenius and drummer Jonas Johansen - immovable objects who looked like two biology teachers and a promising senior student opened with a Bach minuet, branched out into an appropriately entitled NHOP original Uncharted Waters and from then on rubbed shoulders with everything from samba sounds to Duke Ellington.
In these waters there was much to delight in: Wakenius proved a fluid, mercurial guitarist out of the John Abercrombie school and his finest moments came when he reconfigured Ellingtons old warhorse Caravan into something like someone with foot down in the fast lane and road rage on their mind.
Some kinda Caravan and pretty terrific. He also deconstructed melodies and, with NHOP, there were seamless solo exchanges which made you look again at just who was playing what.
NHOP himself brought acoustic jazz bass to the forefront as a sublime melodic instrument, notably in a gorgeous Danish folk tune full of wistful melodicism, aching melancholy and eloquent understatement.
But what he won by pulling bass centre-stage he also lost in that instruments sense of gravitas and emotional resonance. And with drummer Johansen an upfront player who was heavy even on brushes although undeniably accomplished, especially as he segued from one tune to another in the Ellington medley there was also a sense that here was a night of often wonderful fleeting moments from some of the best players in jazz, but which also felt like opportunities for considered reflection lost in the constraints of a concert hall performance.
Would that we had a jazz club where this trio could have explored the perimeters and heartland of jazz as they undoubtedly could.