All Too Human - Vernacular Avant-garde

Ken Waxman, JazzWord

One of those players whose musical allegiance lies somewhere between improvised music and Pop-Rock, Danish drummer Peter Bruun explores this ambiguity on the half-dozen tracks on this brief CD. Aided by a trio of players with similar backgrounds, Bruun who wrote all the tunes and provides unfussy rhythm tracks manages this balancing act quite well. Yet so-called vernacular sounds come out on top of so-called avant-garde ones most of the time.

Bruun is also part of Samuel Blaser’s working trio which includes French guitarist Marc Ducret. Ducret, known for his work with Tim Berne, leads many of his own groups, some of which have featured Danish brass player Kasper Tranberg. Both are also featured here. Meantime the CD’s keyboard additions are from another non-melancholy Dane, Simon Toldam, who often works with Han Bennink.

As self-effacing as Bennink is upfront in his playing, Bruun dabbles in singles pulses, broken rhythms and clip-clop riffs. Moving among moog, juno 60 and philicorda, Toldam constantly lays down waves of organ-like tones, which depending on the circumstances can be church organ-like decorative, or stab and judder like a soul-Jazz swinger. Between them, Tranberg and Ducret take most of the solo space. On trumpet or cornet, Tranberg makes something out of off-kilter, almost flat blowing as on “All Too Human”. However his regular stance is more melodic, with touchstones Electric Miles Davis and slinky Cop show themes, as he demonstrates on the same track. Ducret’s experience with Berne and preference for Jazz-Funk units comes through clearest on tracks like “Sunshine Superman” – not the Donovan hit – and “Extended Mind”, The first seems to climb aboard the Wayback Machine when themes were dominated by keyboard glissandi, unvarying drum beats and chromatic guitar runs. The second melds stabbing keyboard textures, drum chops and vibrating elevated brass pitches as a backdrop to Ducret’s arena-Rock string jumping and juddering. Overall the most notable performance is the title track where disparate influences are ordered and layered enough so that gliding from one to another seems effortless. With the theme expressed in balanced trumpet slurs, while constantly stretched by the others, the final section’s shape-shifting with distorted guitar flanges and clanking jollity from Bruun’s kit seems eminently logical.