October 24, 2020
Under Solen - Caktus
Label: Barefoot Records
Catalog #: BFREC064LP
Release Date: September 2, 2020
Media: lp or digital download
Caktus is a jazz quintet composed of Frederik Hagner (double bass), Thorbjørn Kaas (double bass and cello), Tobias Andreasson (drums), Zeki Jindyl (saxophone) and Maria Dybbroe (saxophone). All of the compositions were written by Ms. Dybbroe. To our knowledge, four of five of these musicians were new to our ears. We have previously encountered the soulful playing of Ms. Dybbroe on the album, An Uncaught Bird (2020), by the trio Køs, which thrilled us here at the Poison Pie Publishing House. (Our review from April, 2020 is here.)
Under Solen ("Under the Sun", this and all following translations courtesy of Google translate) is a different beast than An Uncaught Bird, which is only as it should be for an adventuresome musical talent. The electronics of the former release are absent, replaced by two double basses and a second, complementary saxophone. Most of the tracks are taken from a live recording of a concert at Christianshavns Beboerhus during the Copenhagen Jazz Festival of 2019. The music is improvisational and of varying duration. The shortest track is 24 seconds, while the longest one a few seconds shy of eight minutes. Of great appeal, for each of the twelve tracks on the record, a different poet was engaged in an act of active listening to produce a poem in response to it.
The music is available digitally via bandcamp with a couple extra tracks, but the accompanying poems are only available printed on the interior of the gatefold sleeve that comes with the vinyl purchase (also available from bandcamp). To the extent that the totality of the artistic work is formed through the combination of music and poetry, the vinyl release is essential in this particular circumstance. It seemed an ill-advised endeavor, contrary to the intentions of the artists, for us to separate the music from the words and we did not try.
As an unnecessary aside, part of the appeal of this record to the listeners at the Poison Pie Publishing House is that we have been explicitly engaged in what we call "writing as listening" continuously since January 1, 2017. We have written a daily entry on the blog while listening to a different piece of music. Taken as a whole, these writings constitute an unambiguous repudiation of the forty-fifth president of the United States of America, who on a daily basis has stoked the worst impulses of Americans, attempting to set one against the other for his own advantage. Politics aside, for this reason, we were greatly interested in the examples of active listening produced by the twelve poets on Under Solen.
That the poems are all written in Danish without English translation means little to us. Understanding is, as always, greatly over-rated. Still, we had the poems translated. Without greatly diminishing the motivation to pursue the lp, we reproduce one of the shorter poems in the original Danish and the English translation below.
Æg Og Høne Og Due
Solen stod op over det lille landskab
det var den tid på året
hvor livet vågner op på ny
Due rystede sine vinger
Høne sad på sin pind
Æg sagde ingenting
Eggs And Hen And Dove
The sun rose over the small landscape
it was that time of year
where life awakens anew
Dove shook his wings
Hen sat on his stick
Eggs said nothing
This poem of Christian Hasse captures the nature of the music with greater clarity than any adjectives we supply here. This is a music of shaking wings, sticks and nothing. The appreciation of the music is heightened by the presence of the accompanying text, which serves as a stimulant to the active listener, provoking their internal antennae.
The manner in which the text is presented as an interpretive response to the music recalls the words of the American trombonist and composer, George Lewis, "I feel that when people are listening to music, they can do it because of the sense of empathy that allows them to respond to the creativity of other people by feeling their own creativity. In other words, those neurons start firing and those experiences, those bodily feelings start to resonate with the creativity that's coming from outside because they've got it within them."*
In Under Solen, Ms. Dybbroe and the other four musicians in Caktus, in partnership with a dozen poets, have produced an album that elicits just such a response.
* George E. Lewis, interview with Lloyd Peterson, from Music and the Creative Spirit: Innovators in Jazz, Improvisation and the Avant Garde, Scarecrow Press, Lanham, MD, 2006.