Haugaard and Mogensen - Spirits
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cd cover Harald Haugaard and Anders Mogensen
Go Danish Folk (www.gofolk.dk)

If the record store had a bin labeled "Danish Folk-Jazz Fusion" this would likely be the only disc in it, but for a category with one entry, it's difficult to imagine a more perfect example.

Fiddler Harald Haugaard is a modern virtuoso of the traditional Danish folk repertoire. Well known as a member of the Danish groups DUG, Sorten Muld, Serras and the duo Haugaard and Høirup, on this disc he elevates his pioneering chops to a new level as he integrates Danish and other Scandinavian folk tunes into a jazz quartet setting.

Joined by accomplished jazz musician Anders Mogensen on drum kit, with guitarist Krister Jonsson and Jonas Westergård on bass, Haugaard flits through a set of tunes with his trademark blend of crisp rhythms and energetic abandon. The tunes are culled from the notebooks of various Danish fiddlers over the last few centuries, plus three Danish medieval ballads.

It would be easy to assume this is merely a folk fiddler sawing out his tunes over a jazz rhythm section, but it's really much more than that. There's no easily discernable line between the musicians' styles. The trio snake their musical tentacles into the melodies, harmonies and rhythms of the folk tunes, creating music that sounds both new and old at the same time. The group approaches each tune as an ensemble; four musicians bringing their instruments, technique, and ears to the table to see where these old tunes lead them. And they cover some pretty wide ground. "Proptraekkeren" sounds like a hoedown. "Ebbe Skamelsen," a medieval Danish ballad, comes out as a jazz waltz, and "Valravnen," another medieval ballad sounds like something from David Torn or Steve Tibbetts with its soaring guitars. All of the musicians show depth and versatility, but Jonsson deserves special mention for stretching his guitar tones from crystalline acoustic through mellow jazz to crunchy distorted rock, all with equal aplomb.

A few times the drumming is a bit gratuitous, seeming to overwhelm a delicate melody when a more subtle, sensitive approach might be more appropriate. But overall, the quartet displays remarkable sensitivity, making even the slowest tunes powerful and compelling. Whether you're a fan of folk, jazz, or both, this disc should please, and possibly captivate you. - Barry Hall

Artist's web site: www.hhduo.dk

CD available from cdRoots

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