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6 stars in Progressor from Norway

September 30, 2023

Olav "Progmessor" Björnsen

Track list:
1. Prelude 3:58
2. Songs in the Air 7:33
3. Postlude 5:02
4. The Stones Make Sand Slow 9:23
5. If You Want to Hurt Someone 9:01
6. You Have Only Seen How I Begin 8:42
7. Rain Falls 5:25

Jakob Buchanan - flugelhorn
Marilyn Mazur - percussion
Aarhus Jazz Orchestra
Copenhagen Royal Chapel Choir

Danish composer and musician Jakob Buchanan has been an active part of the Danish music scene for at least a couple of decades, and released his first solo album all the way back in 2003. Following many of years of self-released productions Buchanan have released his later albums on different labels, and this fall his most recent album "Song & Wind" appeared on the Danish label Our Recordings.

While we normally focus on progressive rock at the progressor website, we do make the occasional exceptions as far as style is concerned. Sometimes due to an artist having a past attachment to the progressive rock genre, and sometimes because the music explored by an artist, while outside of the scope of progressive rock as such, may have qualities that would also be of interest to some progressive rock. This latest album by Buchanan is an example of this latter category of albums.
The core style we get on this album is one that exist safely inside of a jazz context. And in this case this is jazz without an influx of rock elements too, hence this isn't one of those fusion albums that exist on the border of the jazzrock spectrum. Instead I'd say that the landscapes explored here comes across as more of a combination of elements from jazz and classical music.
The Aarhus Jazz Orchestra is credited as performers on the album, and many of the compositions do revolve around a more orchestral arrangement and performance. One that comes with melody lines and scale movements with a firm foundation in the jazz legacy, but approached and executed with more of an orchestral expression. With the rhythm section in particular emphasizing the jazz aspects of the material here.

The drums and percussion in particular tends to come with a bit of a Latin touch at times, lively and energetic but with an attitude that is relaxed as well. Occasionally with a few elements I would describe as tribal being a part of the delivery, albeit with this element being present in more of a subtle and understated manner for the passages in question. Combined with the orchestrated textures from the rest of the instruments this creates a mood and atmosphere that is often a bit on the unique side of matters, with a little bit of a sacral feel being very much a presence here.

The inclusion of choir style vocals with occasional solo vocals emphasize this sacral aspect of the production, with the vocal aspect sticking to what I would describe as a sacral tradition that is pretty close to what one might encounter at a church concert. This is an important part of the proceedings that obviously will colour the perception of the music experience overall, but from what I hope is a more objective point of view I would say that the instruments as well as the vocals contribute individually to this perception of a sacral and religious mood and atmosphere just as much as they do collectively.

While not all the players on this album are as well known as others, my impression is that the sheer quality here is just about equal by all the participants. And when of those performers is Marilyn Mazur, I suspect this will be saying a lot for those who know their way around the famous musicians of the world. A lot of work has been put down to create this album too of course, with many interesting and intricate choices in the arrangements that elevates this experience up to a higher level of quality and intrigue. With a superb mix and production as the icing on the cake.

While this album by Jakob Buchanan may not be a production that fits inside of a progressive rock context, and perhaps not even inside a progressive spectrum, it is a stunningly beautiful album that does come with qualities I know there are people in the progressive rock universe that will appreciate. The combination of some standard jazz movements, Latin inspired rhythms and sacral classical vocal traditions approached and executed in more of an orchestral manner is breathtaking at its peak, and competent and solid elsewhere. This is a quality production on all levels, and those with an interest in a sacral sounding combination of jazz and classical music of the kind that begs to be performed in a church or a cathedral built with live music performances in mind should find this album to be quite the rewarding experience I gather.
Olav "Progmessor" Björnsen, 31.September 2023

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