Tag Archives: Alex Jønsson

Album review: Jakob Sørensen: Bagland

BaglandWhat a beautiful album cover!  Bagland is the serene and haunting debut album from Danish trumpeter and composer Jakob Sørensen. It’s grounded in his Scandinavian roots (the title means support from back home)  yet it transcends the dark melancholy of that genre with warm elegant melodies and effortless ensemble playing. Just as Babette’s sumptuous feast triumphed over the bleak landscape and even bleaker lives of her guests in Babette’s Feast  (enlightening them physically and emotionally), so Jakob’s clear, supple and joyous tone lends a golden light to this windswept terrain, making it a very inviting place to spend some time.

All the compositions are by Jakob. They are very striking, with a gentle lilt that makes them slip by effortlessly, dreamily – they are so polished and deceptively simple – and showcase Jakob’s flawless command of all registers.   A feeling of calmness and contentedness is a hallmark of the Scandinavian sound.  And I’d add lyricism, amply demonstrated in the soaring trumpet, the songlike guitar which floats, tinkly percussive effects like wind in the rigging of a sailing boat.  There are so many treats on this album, the melodies prompt so many images –  the pleasure of riding a horse along the shore, or being  wrapped in a fur coat.  Particularly attractive is the guitar of Alex Jønsson (other albums here and here) whose expressiveness and delicacy are the perfect foil to Jakob’s trumpet.

Well worth a listen – as is just about everything out of Aarhus Academy!

Jakob Sørensen – trumpet
Alex Jønsson – guitar
Mathias Jæger – piano
Frederik Sakham – doublebass
Frej Lesner – drums
Nellie Parsager Jensen – Clarinet
Sofie Kirk Østergaard – Clarinet


Mary James 16 February 2015

Album review: Live Foyn Friis: Running Heart (CLP CD 138)

LiveFoynFriisRunningHeartI have enjoyed Norwegian born, Denmark-based singer songwriter Live Foyn Friis’s charming, quirky voice (it is clear and natural with a delicate vibrato) and poetic lyrics for a while. The fact that she continues with her top notch band on her album Running Heart is an added attraction. She is joined by Alex Jønsson on guitar (and Thom Yorke-like vocals too), Jens Mikkel on bass and Andreas Skamby on percussion, with layers added by a cello (played by Maria Isabel Edlund), kalimba, organ, additional vocals and a euphonium. The wonderful thing about Scandinavian jazz-pop-electronica is that they are not afraid to play under-used instruments like banjos (in this case, a euphonium and kalimba), and the catchiness of tunes disguises complex interesting music which belies the label “pop”.  Her band all played with great gusto and joy on I Think You’re Awesome and do so again here with her.

More electronic than her other work Live Foyn Friis with Strings, this album of own compositions, all love songs, is sophisticated, dark and haunting.  Live has many projects from Big Band to Foyn Trio! (improvised pop) and an enviable list of bands and collaborations. She is touring South America now, and her website mentions a tour of Angola in 2017.  The battery of sounds and effects creates an ethereal, fairytale disorientation which will go down very well in large venues, and it would be great to see her in the UK.

Running Heart is released on Curling Legs.

Mary James  17 January 2015

Album review: I Think You’re Awesome: Lift me up so I can reach

I think youre awesomeI hesitate to put the debut album Lift me up so I can reach by Danish band I Think You’re Awesome into any particular category. But it fits easily into the “I-loved-this-the-moment-I-first-heard-it” box.  In just 36 minutes over 6 tracks and in a live  performance,  Jens Mikkel‘s band has created a unique and complex soundscape with tracks of great beauty and serenity sitting comfortably alongside compositions which are instantly arresting, memorable, witty and fun such as Be Kind to Your Neurosis.   

It is a mature work by a band which brings so many genres into play here – pop, indie, jazz, classical, roots.  The instruments are interesting – when did you last hear a banjo?  And it is the work of equals, everyone brings their strengths and  bass player Jens Mikkel allows them the space to breathe and intermingle within his own affectionate compositions. There are  many influences – to my ears there is sitar and the lilt of kora in the symphonic track called I Think You’re Awesome  (where the wurlitzer provides a very distinctive sound remembered from the Beach Boys) .   Yet it all sounds new and fresh and moves along so effortlessly  and perfectly you can’t believe this is a live performance. The title of the album refers to the idea that you can take pride in your achievements even as you are helped by others (those giant’s shoulders) along the way.

In an album of exquisite performances from everyone, special mention must be made of the sublime lyrical beauty of the cello of Maria Isabel Edlund in Schwartzwald.  This is a haunting piece that could be classical but sounds cinematic and modern with the aid of some subtle electronics, dance-like rhythms and abrupt ending. The sound quality and mixing is beautiful throughout.

If you like the sound of this album you might like to try Elliott Girls with Radical Haircuts and  Alex
3 The Lost Moose which both feature Jens and Alex and are equally atmospheric.

All music by Jens Mikkel

Kasper Staub,  juno & wurlitzer
Alex Jønsson,  guitar (right side)
Morten Kærup , banjo
Jens Mikkel, bass
Andreas Skamby, drums


Scott Westh,  trumpet
Jens Bang , trombone
Maria Isabel Edlund, cello

Recorded live in Aarhus, 30 April 2013

Mixed by Anders Ørbæk and mastered by Emil Thomsen

Artwork by Simon Eskildsen

The album is available as a free download from  Jens Mikkel 

Mary James 11 March 2014

Album review: Elliott: Girls with Radical Haircuts – released July 2013

Standing on the shoulders of giants. Isaac Newton sums it up so neatly. None of us creates anything without building on the legacy of those who have gone before us. But that’s how we can reach for the stars, almost touch them, using the achievements of great musicians. The young Danish band, Elliott, have just released their debut album Girls with Radical Haircuts, and in their press release they pay homage to the one hundred year old catalogue of recorded compositions that have enriched our lives. They want to stand on those shoulders. Elliott comprises Alex Jønsson, guitar, Jens Mikkel Madsen, double bass and Jakob Sørensen, trumpet. They share the 8 original compositions, all working with each other to create a very distinctive and haunting sound. All play with other bands. Alex, in particular, plays with Foyn Trio which is led by the striking vocalist Live Foyn Friis whose pretty, quirky, catchy vocals are worth exploring.

So what can we see and hear with this particular trio, Elliott? An unusual combination of instruments – trumpet, guitar and double bass – creating a cool, consistent and spacious chamber sound, inspired by their native land, with beautiful compositions that hang around in your head. Jakob Sørensen’s delicately clear trumpet tone reminds me of Ron Horton when he played with Ben Allison on Midnight Cowboy from Cowboy Justice – a trumpet which is languid yet brittle, meandering gently through a vast American landscape. In Girls we have a more intimate landscape, from the dreamy calypso of Øresund, Baby, where the rocking bass lulls us to sleep to the beautiful Detecting Turtles. Alex Jønsson, who created a magical, fairytale-like atmosphere in The Lost Moose (reviewed here), has continued this vein. His opening, signature, melancholy chord on Dark Blue sets the tone which the others catch. He creates a sound which reaches back to the time of lutes and citterns but which speaks to us. These are wistful compositions, designed to be heard in a fire-lit room with the wind howling outside.

The arresting artwork of the album cover was created by Simon Gorm Eskildsen and you can see the making of it in the video below. The mixing and mastering by Kasper Nyhus are very fine. This is a delightful album by three talented musicians and composers which deserves its place on the shoulders of giants because, quite simply, it is beautiful.

Alex Jønsson, guitar
Jens Mikkel Madsen, double bass
Jakob Sørensen, trumpet
Simon Gorm Eskildsen, artwork


Buy album here

Mary James

Album review: Alex Jønsson 3: The Lost Moose – released May 2013

There are some people who are very fortunate to hear music in colour. At the recent Cheltenham Science Festival I saw the emergence of a beautiful piece of abstract art painted in front of our eyes whilst we listened to a live performance of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. The artist Philippa Stanton has synaesthesia, she “sees” sounds as moving images and she captures them in colours. The result was stunning: deep blues and purples for lower register notes, a serene green midway and paler shades for higher notes. Only on stepping back could we appreciate the beauty and harmony of the creation. How we respond to music is subjective but, in those with the condition, the brain consistently associates sounds with specific colours. The condition is prevalent in one to two per cent of the population and unsurprisingly, perhaps, there is a higher incidence in musicians.

I am not a synesthete but for me The Lost Moose by the Alex Jønsson 3 is delicate shades of landscape grey, aqua and moss, and it has the same effect as a very fine woollen sweater, its absense of weight deceptive. The subtle fairy-tale-feel album cover probably stimulated this response even before I heard the first notes. The Lost Moose is the debut album by Danish guitarist Alex Jønsson, who is joined by Lars Greve on clarinet and saxophone, and Christian Windfeld on drums. The opening track sets the tone, you wonder if you are hearing a lute rather than a guitar, there is a 16th century melancholy feel in the first minute and it never leaves you till the last note of Näkemiin, (Til we meet again). It’s a pilgrimage, we pass through the ancient capital and see a Gothic cathedral, spend idyllic time in tiny remote villages and islands, relish food, experience vertigo, run out of painkillers and say goodbye to those we meet on the road. A timeless road trip rendered in muted colours. Its minimalism is its strength, you can appreciate each delicate sound. Everything is pared back, slowed down. I can imagine words to these lovely tunes, a voice complementing the clarinet. It is not all quietness: in Afraid of heights I do feel I am looking over the edge, it’s quite scary, the earth seems to shake, the guitar and drums a shock after the gentleness.

This is a very beautiful album which succeeds perfectly in creating a consistent and sustained atmosphere through a very rich palate of sounds (or subtle colours). Alex is part of Foyn Trio!, a delightfully quirky jazz crossover band where he plays guitar and backing vocals, and their Joy Visible was nominated for a Danish Music Award. With this pedigree behind him already, in The Lost Moose he has created a distinctive distant world, one in which to lose yourself, one which leaves you enriched by its gentleness and space. Highly recommended.

The Lost Moose

All compositions by Alex Jønsson

It was recorded in Studio Epidemin in Gothenburg, Sweden and recorded & mixed by Johannes Lundberg. Mastered by Petter Eriksson.

Alex Jønsson, guitar
Lars Greve, clarinet and saxophone
Christian Windfeld, drums

The Lost Moose available at http://alexjonsson.dk/