Into the Open-- Sarah Elgeti Quintet

The year is still young, but Sarah Elgeti's Into the Open CD will likely be considered one of the best debut jazz releases of 2012 by those who hear it. Elgeti has a commanding presence, and an individual conception and sound on saxophones and flute, not to mention admirable stylistic flexibility. She also shows much promise as a composer and arranger. Born and raised in East Germany before the toppling of the Berlin Wall, Elgeti came to Denmark in 1998, where this session was recorded. She has led her own quintet since 2007, and won the Holbaek Jazz Award in 2008. A student of classical clarinet and flute, she performs in that genre as well.

The first track, "Home," is a sensuous ballad that Elgeti delineates on tenor with a full-bodied tone and relaxed expressiveness for its brief but memorable two-and-a-half minutes, which leaves you wanting to hear more. "Bossa Among the Trees" follows with the full quintet on board. Elgeti's tenor and Marianne Markmann-Eriksen's alto blend succulently on this appealing melody, with subtle interjections by guitarist Christian Bluhme Hansen, especially during the leader's soulful, undulating solo. Improvisations by Hansen and bassist Jens Kristian Andersen make an impression despite their brevity, and Thomas Praestegaard's drum work stands out as well. The lyricism of Elgeti's tenor and Eriksen's alto cast a spell on "Out in the Fields," as they interweave through the terrain of this beautiful composition. Elgeti utilizes the entire range of her tenor in a powerful statement, succeeded in contrast by Hansen's graceful acoustic guitar solo. The two horns' reprise, and Elgeti's succinctly perfect coda, conclude this superior performance.

Hansen's guitar and the Fender Rhodes of guest Ben Besiakov, plus a three horn front line with the added alto of Mikkel Uhrenholdt, develop a funky opening for the riffing, swaying "Downstairs." Elgeti offers up a soulful, down-to-earth solo, and Besiakov a sprightly one. "Ringe I Vand" (Let It Rain) has a catchy theme that is played by Elgeti's flute and Eriksen's alto. Elgeti's luminescent flute solo is the highlight, backed in this altogether clever arrangement by Eriksen's deep-toned baritone sax. Hansen's guitar improv is concise but noteworthy. With Hansen's acoustic guitar and Andersen's arco bass, Elgeti's penetrating soprano plays the dirge-like "But I Wish I Could" with great emotional depth, and in part alone with Eriksen's baritone to only add to the pathos being conveyed. Elgeti switches to tenor for the moving conclusion.

Elgeti and Eriksen interact both smoothly and dissonantly on "Trying to Forget," in a surprisingly effective juxtaposition of moods. The arrangement of "Blustering Waves" creates a sound much like that of The World Saxophone Quartet at the height of its power, thanks to the participation of altoists Uhrenholdt and Magnus Poulsen. After Besiakov's enticing piano solo, Uhrenholdt and Eriksen engage in flowing trades with drummer Praestegaard. "Clouds" finds Elegeti's flute and Eriksen's alto once again merging in winning fashion after a probing introduction by Andersen. Praestegaard's drumming, as it is for the duration of this recording, is an integral part of the theme's exposition. Eriiksen's supple, warmhearted solo does much to sustain the light and airy aura.

"Angelique" is an absorbing Elgeti ballad written for her mother, which the composer caresses on tenor with a throaty tone. Besiakov's piano solo is spacy, deliberate, and generally in a Bill Evans frame of mind. Elgeti's solo is both thoughtful and touching. Elgeti and Eriksen begin "Night Moves" with avant-garde dissonance, and soon thereafter embark on a contrapuntal give-and-take that utilizes well-controlled multiphonics. The theme itself could be characterized as modern mainstream funk. The CD lastly presents a bonus track remix of "Bossa Among the Trees," which gives the original version a different, more fusion-like slant thanks to an electronically created rhythmic pulse.

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Scott Albin