Danish pianist, keyboardist, composer and arranger, Martin Lutz's third release with his own group, It's Swing – Not Rocket Science, is a collection of disparate compositions all connected by Lutz's rather uniquely slanted compositional concepts. Organized into five suites, all featuring a guest artist, the music is passive at some moments and energetically manic at others, sometimes all within the same suite, as occurs most obviously during the "Africa" suite.
Lutz has won a number of different awards, including the 2008 Danish Music Award for Crossover Album Of The Year, has written a piano tutorial book, and composes music in a neo-romantic style for choirs. As a pianist he works not only in his own bands, but with others as well.
On this recording, Lutz's sextet takes center stage, even as they include guest artists to the band. Lutz's three saxophone horn line, plus rhythm section, traverse the varied landscapes presented with ease and aplomb. For example, the color shifts of "Sad Sarahs Sad Sahara Sand" are punctuated nicely by guest Marilyn Mazur's popping percussion work while the high energy rock swinger "African Polka" is full of a driving vigor one might associate with the late Buddy Rich's band. The mid-tempo swinger, "Sct. Hans," is full of moving harmonic lines in the horns that dip and dive around each other leading up to Lutz's sweet and tight piano solo. Tenor saxophonist Mads Ole trades short and taut solo lines with guest trumpeter Jesper Riis in this same piece in a round-dance like manner while the ensemble plays perfectly punctuated background figures.
The variety inherent in the mostly swing compositions is provided by the intriguing melodies Lutz composes, as well as his incorporation of non-traditional jazz instruments like the Tin Whistle on "Snowstorm And Coffee" and the Shawm during the" Africa" suite. Further color is provided, at just the right moments, by Lutz's use of Fender Rhodes and Wurlitzer organ along with his acoustic piano.
All of Lutz's regular ensemble members get their time to shine as well. Lars Johnsen's double bass solo in the "North" suite is pinpointedly locked into the two-step rhythm, and Jacob Rose's alto saxophone work during the "Swing" suite is wonderfully blues-inflected. While not getting any obvious drumset solos, Ricco Victor's work anchors the group into a firm grounding no matter the direction or tangents in which Lutz's compositions move. Lutz, himself a wonderful keyboard soloist in addition to being a stellar composer, deserves more international recognition for not only his playing but also his composing.
The guest artists are, for those who know of their work, excellent. Jacob Fischer absolutely tears it up on guitar, Jesper Riis' trumpet work is soulful in the Nordic tradition, and Harald Haugaard's violin work fits perfectly into the sonic worlds Lutz creates for him.
It's rare to hear a group focus on swing these days, and even rarer to hear a group tie other musical landscapes into that swing concept as perfectly as Lutz's group manages; witness the Irish jig of "Interlutz" as just one of many cross-genre swing adjusted compositions. For those who like humor and diversity in their swing, this CD is a good place to start.