Across the pieces, the ever-adventurous Aarhus Jazz Orchestra immerse themselves in the compositions creating scintillating patterns and surprising features, often in the background, and joyful expressions in the soloing.

Stunt Records: STUCD23032

Teitur Lassen: vocals; Mads Baerentzen: piano; Frederik Sakham: bass; John Riddell: drums; Mark Solborg: guitar; Katharina Brien, Johan Toftegaard Knudsen, Michael Bladt, Cesar Joaniquet, Michael Olsen: woodwinds; Lars Vissing, Jan Lynggaard Sørensen, Lars Søberg Andersen, Jakob Sørensen: trumpets; Stefan Friis Ringvie, Tobias Stevngaard, Niels Jakob Nørgaard, Henrik Resen: trombones.

Recorded 27th February 2021 by Morten Buchert at Arhus Dornkirke, Denmark

I guess you might be forgiven for thinking the topic of the lyrics on these tunes are classic examples of ‘first world problems’, with its focus on remembering email passwords, forgetting sunglasses (which inspires three variations that punctuate the set), filling out forms, and driving with someone tailing you. But there is a sardonic humour in these songs (the password needs ‘special characters’ – and ‘the world is full of special characters / who think they are a little too special’) and the various strands of mild annoyance and incipient paranoia come to a head in ‘I touched my face’ (track 4) when the listener is suddenly pulled back to the height of Covid-19 and memories of the various limits on our actions and widespread fears of the virus. The lyrics are pulled from emails between Roy Freirich and Teitur during the summer of 2020 – when the fears were not only of a rampaging virus but also a newly elected President in the USA. With the benefit of hindsight and the distance of a couple of years, this feels like the documenting of an historical event.

The words inspire beautiful big band compositions that not only provide clear and elegant settings for the words but also emphasise the emotional heft of even the simplest of observations so that these escalate into the worries, panics, and fears that so many experienced during the pandemic. The music has the verve of jazz with the balance of contemporary musical theatre, particularly in the ways in which simple phrases gradually mutate over several bars in tune with the emotions conveyed by the words. The set closes with two pieces (‘Everything is somewhere else’, track 8, and ‘There will be places’, track 9) that emphasise the under-current of musical theatre, both in the arrangements and vocal delivery, that permeates the set and which bring a strong sense of optimism to carry into the future. In particular, ‘There will be places’ could easily be a song that ends the first act of a Broadway musical as it reconciles the concerns and worries of the previous pieces and sets up the opportunity to move forward into uncharted territory or the repetition of the familiar (‘some many moments will come again’ (including ‘menus and dishes / musical theatre / crowding together / DJs and dancefloors’). Across the pieces, the ever-adventurous Aarhus Jazz Orchestra immerse themselves in the compositions creating scintillating patterns and surprising features, often in the background, and joyful expressions in the soloing.