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The cover's got a bit of a hip hop look to it, but the album is jazz-based all the way through -- and relatively free jazz at that! The WBZ ensemble is comprised of Jonas Westergaard on bass, Peter Bruun on drums, and Jesper Zeuthen on alto sax -- all playing together in a style that's very much in the European extrapolation of the New York/ESP ideals that first crossed the Atlantic at the end of the 60s -- if we can use such an obtuse sort of reference! By that, we mean that there's definitely roots here that stretch back to Albert Ayler, Sonny Simmons, and Charles Tyler -- carried off with a similar blend of freedom and spirituality, but also sharing the rhythmic pulse that held the best ESP work firmly on earth, and less of the too-free modes that sprang up later on the European scene. Titles include "Prima Ballerina", "Assembling", "No 4", "Destruction Dirtbox", "Den 8 Plage", "Mask", "Kreutzer Valse", and "Opti/Mopti".
(...) WBZ’s disc is like hearing something by the Sex Pistols or the Ramones for the first time. Energetic and intense, the three manage to pack eight tunes into fewer than 35 minutes.
While all contribute to the excitement on PRIMA BALLERINA, titular frontman Zeuthen stands out. It’s not just that he plays the traditional solo instrument it’s also his unique tone on the alto saxophone. Closer in timbre to the soprano then the larger sax, he seems to use a combination of striated tones and choked pitches to create a distinctive, nasal sound that also resembles the ney or the musette.
Writhing, sputtering, fluttering and honking in false registers, his vibrations spur different responses from the other two. Sometimes Brunn rolls and thumps as if he was in a rock band, other times he turns to feathery brushes accompaniment to complement horn patterning and clean, ringing bass slides. Westergaard rarely backs up the others as much as he swells out restrained counterpoint usually in a tag-team with the saxman, but sometime with the drummer.
Occasionally, as on “Destruction Dirt Box”, Zeuthen alters the tonal centre to such an extent that without warning the descending bass line and slapped drum bits are playing at a slower pace then what went before, without turning the beat around. Then the reedist’s near palsied vibrato brings the tempo up again.
One of these sessions gives an under-acknowledged reed man his place in the sun. The other introduces a new hell-for-leather group of improvisers. Both are worth investigating.
-- Ken Waxman