For Lars Danielsson, that consummate craftsman of sound on both cello and bass, the power of music resides in melody. It is the heart from which everything else develops, and his Liberetto ensemble has stayed true to this principle again in its third album. The word 'Liberetto' which Danielsson coined for the name of the group also serves well as a descriptor of his art. 'Libretto' is a reference both to Western art music which is the source of his compositions, and to their lyrical, vocal character. But also hidden in the band's name is the Latin adjective 'liber' (free). That stands for improvisation, for how individuals can take lines and shapes and adapt them, but above all it refers to Danielsson's musical understanding which acknowledges no boundaries.
This third edition of “Liberetto” transcends more of those boundaries than ever before. The opening track of the album looks heavenward: “I wrote 'Agnus Dei' for my mother,” Danielsson explains. “She sang in a choir - as I did later too. The spirituality and the ceremony of liturgical music left their mark on me.” Following on from this gentle, almost classical hymn is “Lviv”, a tune which is very differently wired: it’s brisk, based on a simple poppish melodic hook and it has an uncommon sense of rhythmic forward propulsion. What follows is many-sided: “Sonata in Spain” the band toys with Spanish folklore, “Taxim By Night” has a waft of Turkish-Arabic scent, and “Gimbri Heart” has African charm and warmth. By contrast, “Mr Miller” is a touching ballad with a ‘Nordic Sound’ aesthetic.
All twelve tracks are compositions by Danielsson, and they sum up what 'Liberetto' is all about: through keeping structure and freedom in such a fine balance, the musical expression acquires an almost weightless sense of poise and easefulness. And binding it all together is the wonderful interaction of the musicians. Whether they are playing unison lines, solo-ing and accompanying, or engaging in interplay, the ball is generously and deftly passed from one player to another.
“The band has developed massively since 2012”, reflects Danielsson. “We have played together so much, we all seem to have a sixth sense now. And that helped us to make the new album more varied and colourful, to take off in even more directions.” However, one member of the original quartet including guitarist John Parricelli and ex-e.s.t. drummer Magnus Öström, is no longer there: Tigran, the pianist on both of the first albums. But it happened that Danielsson became aware of the extremely talented French pianist Grégory Privat. His origins are in the Caribbean island of Martinique and he also happens to be a member of the ACT family. Danielsson invited him to play and found straight away that they were on the same wavelength. “He is a fantastic addition. Grégory is a hugely gifted storyteller at the piano, with loads of rhythmic sensitivity, plus he brings a Creole element into our music. We are thrilled to have him with us.”
As was the case for the first two “Liberetto” albums, there are some carefully selected guests, who bring their talents and energies to particular tracks: Sting’s guitarist Dominic Miller makes another appearance, as does trumpeter Mathias Eick with his inimitably rounded sound. Arve Henriksen takes the other trumpet parts - he was in the mix on the “Liberetto” debut album too. The striking oboe solo on “Da Salo” is played by Björn Bohlin of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, with whom Danielsson has been working recently, and finally there is the sensitivity and fair of oud player Hussam Aliwat. As a co-producer singer Cæcilie Norby supported Danielsson to make his musical visions come true.
“Lars Danielsson has a knack of forming great bands", Stuart Nicholson wrote in Jazzwise in 2014."He manages to realise the potential of his musicians in directions even they had not imagined.” With Liberetto III, he has done it again, and produced a beautifully constructed, and yet deeply felt album.
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