NORDIC CIRCLES is a Norwegian project conceived to bring together familiar and young performers from the Nordic jazz scene – and Under the Clouds (following first release Winter Rainbow) presents a balmy strand of cool, often meditative sounds from a sextet which features the gossamer vocal tonality of Siril Malmedal Hauge.
Established musicians Lars Jansson (piano), Jacob Young (guitar) and Jesper Bodilsen (bass) nestle alongside rising saxophonist Magnus Bakken and drummer/producer Anders Thorén to express nine mostly original compositions (either from Jansson or Bodilsen) which breathe life and light, principally through warm, easy-going conviviality rather than hard grooving. Nevertheless, the crystal-clear enunciation of Hauge – at times, reminiscent of Norah Jones – adds soft folk/jazz charm to atmospheres which seem to evoke the onset of shorter days (suggested by swirling Autumnal cover art).
Specific lyric-based songs such as homely, lilting A Beautiful Smile and buoyant waltz, Another Heart, are melodically memorable; and fireside miniature Om Natten (At Night), attributed to Swedish singer-songwriter Olle Adolphson, hints at deep-rooted tradition. But piano-led instrumentals anchor this album in accessible, feel-good jazz, Magnus Bakken’s rich, direct tenor lines in buoyant Special One only embellished by the subtlest vibrato. Hauge’s wordless tones enfold the guitar-and-piano dreaminess of Ahimsa as well as blithe, sunshiny Orvieto; Jansson’s pellucid, almost levitational piano in freely-improvised Searching for Meaning hints at the quieter oases of Rick Wakeman’s music; whilst sparkling, high-flying bopper School Dance closes with infectious Herbie Hancock-like fervour.
From a series whose harmonious aims are to be admired, and which hopefully will continue, Under the Clouds does indeed suggest candlelit mindfulness and cheer as the nights draw in.
Siril Malmedal Hauge vocals
Lars Jansson piano
Jacob Young guitar
Magnus Bakken saxophone
Jesper Bodilsen bass
Anders Thorén drums
AMP Music & Records – AT009 (2017)