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Alex Riel/Kenny Werner/Jesper Lundgaard: Celebration

Danish drummer Alex Riel is well known for his mid-1960s’ tenure as the house drummer at Club Monmartre in Copenhagen. He’s been recording his own groups since 1965 and Celebration (Stunt) marks his 60th birthday and his seventh recording as a leader. For this musical party Riel’s joined by pianist Kenny Werner, bassist Jesper Lundgaard and an appreciative audience at Copenhagen JazzHouse. While they are all effective, even compelling soloists, they also function cohesively as a trio. This becomes apparent on the opening selection as they play with different time signatures on “In Your Own Sweet Way.” The pianist and bassist both take advantage of their solo opportunities: Lundgaard most impressively in his arco solo on “Bye Bye Blackbird” and his upper register, cellolike solo on the ballad “A Child Is Born,” and Werner in his beautiful arrangement of Bach’s beautiful “Siciliana.” Everyone gets a full head of steam for the 10-minute romp through “You and the Night and the Music.” But the most extraordinary moment occurs following the leader’s dynamic drum solo on “Autumn Leaves,” when the trio goes into a harmonic free-fall as if the tonal rug has been pulled out from under them. Risky stuff but very rewarding when it works. Experienced musicians like this could easily just coast playing standards. It’s nice to hear this trio taking chances.

Originally Published