Pianist-composer Peter Madsen, a mainstay on the New York scene since the early ’80s, made a courageous leap into a new life in 2000 by marrying an Austrian woman and relocating to her rustic hometown of Vorarlberg, nearly 4,000 miles from the Big Apple. But rather than allowing his improv chops to atrophy, Madsen has flourished there as the head of various groups he put together with the locals. His Seven Sins Ensemble combines string quartet with a top-shelf jazz quartet featuring the outstanding trumpeter and improviser Herbert Walser, who is prominently featured throughout Madsen’s seven-movement “The Dante Suite” (based on Dante’s Inferno).
There are moments of rare beauty here, as on the melancholy ballad “Deficient Love: Indifference” and the poignant closer, “Swiss Chocolate,” both featuring remarkably lyrical solos by Walser. The driving and dissonant “Excessive Love: Rage” showcases the considerable skills of drummer Alfred Vogel. The more experimental “Malicious Love: Excessive Desire” and “Excessive Love: Hubris” tap into Madsen’s subversive, Sun Ra-indebted side. The strings, wildly interactive throughout, are far more than window dressing on this extraordinarily ambitious outing, which stands as Madsen’s crowning achievement to date.