Heinrich von Kalnein

Perfect World

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This album's title track sounds strikingly like something Kenny Wheeler might have done for ECM in the '70s; sure enough, in his self-penned liner notes, Von Kalnein acknowledges his admiration for the flugelhornist. And so it goes. Much of this album reflects the ECM aesthetic -- loosely swinging, occasionally funky modal jazz, artfully recorded with a pronounced reverb that lends something of a concert-hall ambience. Von Kalnein is a fine player and composer. His saxophone work is clean and unfussy, lyrical but not sappy -- a bit Wayne Shorter-ish, actually. There's a bit of a "Where have I heard this before?" feel to much of this music. Certainly Von Kalnein and the band's other composers (pianist Emil Spanyi, bassist Henning Sieverts, and guitarist Nguyen Le) seem to have been heavily influenced by the best post-bop composers of the '70s and '80s -- Keith Jarrett, Gary Burton, and Dave Holland, perhaps (not to mention "In a Silent Way"-era Miles Davis). In other words, this music doesn't have a crystal clear identity of its own. But if you love the music of that era, this record holds a definite appeal. The soloists are accomplished, the group dynamic is loose and intense in appropriate measure -- overall, quite an attractive album.

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