Monday 15 April 2024

'Balancing Act' by Rasmus Sørensen

April Records have become exceptionally adept at presenting a riveting perspective of contemporary Danish jazz.  Through a selection of dynamic artists and ensembles, the label - and its roster - have waved the flag for the country's luminaries of today.  Rasmus Sørensen's latest release, however, provides that perspective amidst a slightly different context and setting...

Having moved to New York in 2018, the pianist and composer has had the incredible opportunity to shape his own perspectives in entirely new ways by surrounding himself by New York's finest players and performers.  The scenario calls to mind the famous Anaïs Nin quote, "New York seems conducted by jazz, animated by it. It is essentially a city of rhythm".  For an artist with an almost prodigal level of talent, New York's typically revered hot bed of flair and inventiveness would be a combination to celebrate.

Sørensen's natural skill was able to see him ingratiate himself in the scene fairly quickly.  Having attended the jazz program at Skurups Folkhögskola in Sweden after turning 19 and moving to Copenhagen the year after, a further opportunity to attend the Manhattan School of Music soon followed which is where Sørensen has been able to see himself and his music continue to grow.

For 'Balancing Act', Sørensen's sophomore album release, the pianist continues his affections for trio arrangements this time pairing his piano alongside the brilliance of drummer Kendrick Scott and bassist Alexander Claffy.  Also serving as the album's producer, Claffy has proven to be a New York staple since moving there over twelve years ago from Philadelphia.  A solo recording artist in his own right, the highly sought-after bassist and composer can cite numerous high-profile collaborations to his resume including work with The Rongetz Foundation, Kristiana Roemer and Randy Brecker.  

Kendrick Scott rounds out the trio for 'Balancing Act'.  The drummer and bandleader can also add being the founder of the record label World Culture Music to his own boundless list of achievements.  With his most recent album finding a home on Blue Note Records - through the excellent 'Corridors' - like Claffy, Scott's numerous success can be attributed to his work alongside celebrated names like Charles Lloyd, Gretchen Parlato and Robert Glasper.

With Sørensen's 2022 debut, 'Traits', having been recorded in Denmark (with Jon Henriksson and Francesco Ciniglio), 'Balancing Act' benefits from being fully immersed within the inimitable surroundings of New York and being an album indicative of Sørensen's time spent there over the past six years.  Perhaps the juggling of these two worlds is where the concept of the 'balancing act' comes from.  With Sørensen forging his own path amidst travels that have taken him across various countries, there would no doubt be every intention to retain those experiences and influences that had the earliest impact on you musically but Sørensen's motivations have always been to continue learning and exploring new ideas and concepts making 'Balancing Act' an excellent depiction of all of those ideals.

As you would expect with artists of this calibre, the performances across the album's six tracks are exquisite with sublime pieces bolstered by an understated energy throughout.  Boasting a selection of new compositions alongside some Great American Songbook classics, 'Balancing Act' sees Sørensen walking the proverbial tightrope masterfully unveiling what will undoubtedly be a milestone release within his burgeoning catalogue.

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