LOTTE ANKER — Birthmark (review)

LOTTE ANKER — Birthmark album cover Album · 2013 · Avant-Garde Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
We are living in a time when experimental jazz musicians are not daily news stars (as if there ever was such time). On a different planet, Danish sax player Lotte Anker would be such a star.

Classically trained as a pianist in her teens, Lotte switched to jazz reeds later, and in her jazz-friendly homeland played with such great jazz musicians as former Miles Davis drummer US-born and Denmark living Marilyn Mazur, American pianist Marilyn Crispell and then still unknown Niels-Petter Molvaer. After her meeting with "new NY avant-garde jazz" representative sax player Tim Berne at one of the festivals, she started a long lasting collaboration with his band's musicians, pianist Craig Taborn and drummer Gerald Cleaver, forming with them The Lotte Anker Trio. With this trio she recorded some of her most successful and best known albums, mixing her Scandinavian relaxed and airy saxophone sound with quite energetic NY downtown pulsations and freedom (learning a lot from Tim Berne and actually exchanging with him in what could be his trio).

Surprisingly, "Birthmark" features her other trio. This time she plays with two relatively unknown Portuguese musicians, bassist Hernâni Faustino and pianist Rodrigo Pinheiro, instead of Taborn/Cleaver and it works! Hernâni Faustino and Rodrigo Pinheiro are both the bigger half of the young, but quite successful Portuguese Red Trio (their two albums got a lot of positive press around Europe). It's interesting that in the new trio, Lotte herself is the NY loft sound generator, perfectly balanced with the European free traditions represented by the bassist and pianist.

The music on this album is quite relaxed, but has its nerve, very free form but melodic, often even lyrical, philosophical but without being boring. It is a unique mix of Don Cherry Christiania-based music (without world fusion elements though), Tim Berne-like modern New York avant-garde jazz and European classic avant-garde traditions. And most importantly - all three musicians have that magic chemistry which separates great music from just good music, and it's a rare thing.

Recorded and released in Portugal, this album has one more strong side - it isn't too long and contains no fillers. With my full respect and even love for one of the most successful of European young labels, Clean Feed Records has one serious problem - musical material editing. Many of their releases would be much, much better with even small additional cutting of unimportant or openly boring parts, making final albums not 79:56 min overloaded releases for crazy collectors, but well produced concentrated music products for casual listeners. "Birthmark" is quite a rare and successful exception - one more reason to have this album in your collection.
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