Recorded in Copenhagen in 2009 with Americans Bobby Watson on alto and Kenny Werner on piano, along with French bass player Pierre Boussaquet and Danish drummer Alex Riel, Danish born alto saxophonist Benjamin Koppel returns with an album titled At Ease.
Starting At Ease with a ten and a half minute “Groovin’ Altos” is a great example of showing everyone what you got right out of the gate. A walking, swing bass line by Boussaquet followed by in sync altos with drummer Riel laying down a foundation. This songs escalates to an almost duel format with Koppel and Watson taking turns. Nice piano interlude by Werner to break it up. Riel is up next, taking his turn to shine with a compact drum solo.
Following the abrupt end of the first song next is the slow “At Ease.” This has a great moving or slowed down quality to it without actually being too slow or being labeled a ballad. Again, Koppel and Watson take turns. No one is out to outshine the other, each taking turns. Kenny Werner adds a brilliant piano, an almost Herbie Hancock mellow feel.
Koppel and band mates really excel at the longer songs. This allows each player to add their own feel and expressions to each song. “Mother’s Song” is a fine example of this. With an eleven minute length, this starts off with a Werner introduction followed by Koppel, playing an almost Coltrane like phrasing, just with more use of the upper register. Bassist Pierre Boussaguet does not follow along with that everyone else is doing, he adds his own flavor and expressions.
With all of the songs coming at an average of eight minutes or longer and all composed by Koppel, he can be at ease with the notion that he and is band mates have released a fine album.