Ann-Marie Henning

Tidal Dreams

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Swedish pianist Ann-Marie Henning has been on the jazz scene there for decades, and played everything from blues to folk before that. Her dedication to melodic improvisation and linear composition place her in a particular context in the jazz world, but it does not limit her ability to write for extremely divergent groupings of musicians. This is amply demonstrated here, where Henning composes and plays in a variety of settings, all of her own design. On the opener, "Morgondopp," she is accompanied only by bassist Jan Adefelt. Walking the line between Bill Evans' large harmonic frameworks, Keith Jarrett's intricate sense of melodic equanimity, and Horace Silver's tight post-bop line, Henning and Adefelt offer each other big areas of chromatic interplay, and Henning restrains herself on the arpeggios, but just barely. On four other tracks -- the most notable of which is "Back in Business" -- Henning is content to play bandleader, her pianism being just another instrument in a loping blend of brass, winds, and rhythm. Here is modern creative jazz played impeccably, with enough swing to engage the listener before it goes off and explores a series of sophisticated modalities and changes. The biggest surprise, however, is on "April Light," composed for big band. Here, Gil Evans' modalism meets a color palette for big band that is not unlike Toshiko Akiyoshi's striking arrangements for muted winds and step-down melodic segments before the piano enters, balladic yet regal and whispering. There is a vocalist present, but she's wordless. Mostly the study becomes one of jazz impressionism, where small tensions are created and then expanded into full-blown melodic and harmonic ideas. While it would be remiss to stay that Henning is a totally original pianist, she certainly is one of the finest composers and arrangers not only in her homeland but in the Netherlands as well, with this album being the proof.

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