Danish born, but now living in Sweden, tenor saxophonist Christian Herluf Pedersen did his collegiate studies at the Berklee College of Music - where he studied with Frank Tiberi, George Garzone and Bill Pierce - before graduating from The Royal College of Music in Stockholm. For this recording, Pedersen’s first as a leader, he is joined by Fredrik Hermansson on piano, Kristian Lind on bass, and Bjorn Sima on drums.
Hermansson’s background includes time spent at the Birka Folkhögskola in Östersund, Sweden, before earning a Master’s degree in Västerås, Sweden. Bassist Lind earned a degree from The Academy of Music in Malmoe and since has worked with artists like Jeff Ballard, Kurt Elling, Tim Hagans, Manuell Dunkel and John Fedchock. Drummer Sima works in a wide variety of genres and bands in Sweden.
Essentially this disc is further testament to the ability of European musicians to take what started as an American musical movement, jazz, and prove you don’t have to be from the United States to come to understand the traditional post-bop straight-ahead concepts practiced with great frequency here in the states. As a saxophonist Pedersen has a full and robust tone; think Dexter Gordon but without the heavy low tone frequencies. On this disc Pedersen has written eight tunes, there is a ninth by Hermansson, and uses them as vehicles to introduce himself to the wider jazz audience outside of the Nordic region.
Sometimes Pedersen plays with a hauntingly beautiful tone and deep sincerity, as on the ballad "J.S.," and at other times relishing in the joy of making music with friends, as on "Bigger Leaps." As a composer Pedersen’s pieces, while not flashy, do have a straightforward charm to them, but it’s in his soloing where Pedersen shines. His use of a wide variety of short motivic elements that evolve over the course of the solo, as in "Ronim," is handled well. On other pieces, as on "Eastend," he prefers to link longer phrases with short ones in a mature manner. He’s not always successful, but you can hear a spark of intuitive improvisational conceptualization that makes a strong nod towards Pedersen’s later and further development.
Hermansson, more known for his rock band work, proves himself to be an adept pianist who focuses more on laying out the chordal structure behind Pedersen and never gets in the way, as so many rock oriented keyboardists tend towards when playing jazz. His feel for swing is inventively hip and as a soloist he is more than capable. Bassist Lind proves why he is a first call jazz bassist with a steady control of the metrics and constantly supplying intuitive support to his other pitched instrument counterparts. He doesn’t just come up with the right note at the right moment, but more so he builds his lines so that the right notes are always inevitable; a rare feat in young jazz bassists. While Sima could push and prod Pedersen much more than he does, he does have a firm sense of time and swing feel. All-in-all a fine first recording.