Saturday, February 11, 2006

CD: Knut Haugsoen - Step And A Half

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Knut Haugsoen - Step And A Half
Ram Records 0070

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Knut Haugsoen

Nominated for the Juno for Best Contemporary Jazz Album - Instrumental in 2001, Knut Haugsoen's Step And A Half is another superbly satisfying from the Winnipeg-based composer, band leader and pianist. And, it features some of the most exciting and active players in the Canadian scene.

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Jim Vivian

The opening track, Win Win, starts off with lush percusion, courtesy of Rick Lazar, recalling Latin America to some extent, punctuated with the deft playing of Mike Murley on sax. Just when you think the tune has decided to settle into its comfortable groove, about halfway through, the pace suddenly changes on a dime. Guitarist Geoff Young, bassist Jim Vivian, and drummer Ted Warren take off at that point in a deliciously faster direction which eventually meets back with the original groove.

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Ingrid Jensen

I especially enjoyed Knut and Ingrid's respective soloing on the third track, Step And A Half. Stefan Bauer, producer of the album, also lends his absolutely gorgeous vibraphone playing and really shines on Play Of Light. When the vibes kick in, you will get a smile on your face, guranteed.

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Stefan Bauer

There are three tracks not composed by Knut Haugsoen, Kurt Weill's (1900 - 1950)"Speak Low," Harold Arlen (1905 - 1986) and Johnny Marcer's (1909- 1976) ballad "Out Of This World," and J. McHugh and D. Fields'"Don't Blame Me."

What stand out most for me on this recording is that the tracks are memorable. They are distinctive and beg to be covered by others, either live or on record. One of my favorite tracks of Knut's is Gridlock, from the Vikrama album, Hands On. That track has been covered the Roy/Lerner group on their debut recording, Quarter To Three. Indeed, Knut covers himself here, with the track Trinidad, also from Hands On. One of the easiest tracks to recall is "D'Accord." It's mid-paced and revists it's basic hooks often enough for them to stick in your head.

Knut Haugsoen - piano, Fender Rhodes
Ingrid Jensen - trumpet, fluegelhorn
Mike Murley - tenor and soprano sax
Geoff Young - guitar
Jim Vivian - bass
Ted Warren - drums
Rick Lazar - percusion
Stefan Bauer - vibraphone

Overall, Step And A Half is a world-class contemporary jazz album and a showcase of some of the best players that Canada has to offer. The album is never harsh or icy cool, so while it's contemporary jazz, it's also fairly mainstream as opposed to more cutting edge. Listen to the samples on the Vikrama website and take a chance on this CD!

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