Friday 8 July 2022

'Handmade in Denmark' by Emil de Waal

'Handmade in Denmark' marks the rare opportunity to revisit the beginnings of Emil de Waal's quartet project with the official reissue of the group's inaugural release now available through April Records.

With 'Vente' - the sixth album from de Waal's close-knit collective - released in 2021, the prolific drummer and producer seeks to embrace the notion of his past releases being exposed to a larger audience via April Records' distinct perception of contemporary Danish jazz.  With a continually expanding range of phenomenal releases from the neo soul stylings of OTOOTO to the sublime sounds of Human Being Human or the warm and rich tones of trombonist Lis Wessberg, April Records are perfectly positioned to shine that light on de Waal's landmark projects ensuring it receives the level of care and respect it is due.  

Originally released independently in 2015 as a limited edition CD, de Waal's 'Handmade in Denmark' - as was performed by the original quartet line-up that featured himself on drums and percussion, Elith "Nulle" Nykjær on clarinet, Søren Kjærgaard on keyboards (who would later be replaced by Dan Hemmer) and Gustaf Ljunggren on guitars and saxophone - will now find itself released on vinyl for the first time.

If you're familiar with Emil de Waal's work to date, you'll be fully aware of his penchant to create progressive and forward-thinking jazz music that thrives upon the spirit of collaboration and a boundary-less amalgamation of styles.  To demonstrate the point, as part of the Kalaha quartet, de Waal and company have created inspired compositions over their two albums that incorporate Turkish and Middle Eastern influences to off-kilter jazz and 80s synthpop; Emil de Waal embraces that notion of exploration within one's own music in the same way but seeking inspiration from different sources.  

'Handmade in Denmark' pays subtle tributes to a multitude of styles: the album's title track issues twinges of country and folk in its make-up while 'Christiania' finds its joy in this delicious, almost moody, hip-hop swagger that would make revered producer and DJ, Madlib, enthusiastically nod along.  Ljunggren's banjo on 'Almerida' is almost playful which is in line with the nursery rhyme-esque opening interpretation of Simon & Garfunkel's 'The Sound of Silence'.  The latter, of course, serving as an excellent choice for a track to reimagine and one that is tackled brilliantly with its sombre venture into its perception of 'silence'.

For such dynamic and unhindered expressions of jazz music, de Waal's continually bold adventures are quite often made to look effortless as opposed to something that is meticulously and painstaking planned out and strategized.  Such a masterful grasp of music can really only come from an artist so secure and confident within their own message that it's the passion for the craft that ultimately carries them through.

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