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Matthew Ruddick

Author of Funny Valentine, an acclaimed new biography of the jazz trumpet player and singer, Chet Baker.
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Saturday, 21 January 2017 18:52

Jimmy Halperin with Pål Nyberg Trio - Live at A-trane Berlin

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Saxophonist Halperin teams up with guitarist Nyberg for an old-school live album.

This is pure jazz. Unadulterated by artifice, digital sounds, other musical styles and fashions, it’s old school unadorned improvisational music and proud of it.

Though recorded in Berlin, Germany, the sounds on this live album are pure 1960s New York. Sax player Jimmy Halperin is a straight ahead jazz man - fast, energetic, technically proficient, schooled in the sounds of those who’ve gone before. He’s regarded as the doyen of the New York Cool School of jazz, and this album demonstrates that theme in spades. There’s nothing particularly original about his playing, but he gives you what you expect - honkingly fast and sassy jazz saxophone sounds.

Halperin has recorded previously with Sweden’s Pål Nyberg and their pairing has a feel of bridging the Atlantic divide in jazz, pairing the New York sound with the European voice of Nyberg’s guitar. It works pretty well on this album. Nyberg’s a Swedish jazz export - like my current favourite Andreas Hourdakis - who’s worked his way around Europe honing his craft - straight-ahead, unadorned, no-effects jazz guitar - and started to make waves on the US scene.

The album’s rhythm section of Robert Erlandsson (bass) and Andreas Fryland (drums) perform admirably but they are here as guns for hire. This album is about the duetting and interplay of Halperin and Nyberg which evidences a natural simpatico between the two. Live At A-trane is jazz as synchronicity; this is seen most clearly in the opening 32 bars of second track Feather Bed, where Halperin and Nyberg’s co-playing is faultlessly accurate and challengingly difficult, before opening out into sequential solos, each which has all the hallmarks of players steeped in the history of sixties and seventies jazz.

Saxophone phrases tumble out of Halperin's sax across the eight tracks like cotton off an unravelling bobbin, continuous and sinewy, fast and furious, all done well. He’s a super technician. Pål Nyberg matches Halperin in the velvet smoothness of his phrasing, notes tumbling together from his fretboard in a waterfall of 32nd notes before the brakes are applied and each musical phrase is curtailed, reformed and then sent off in another direction.

This album makes you feel like you’re in a club with low ceilings, cigar smoke wafting around and bourbon, strictly neat, on the table. It’s looking back, rather than forward, but that’s no bad thing.

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