Switched On – Wesseltoft | Schwarz: DUOII (Jazzland)

Reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Norwegian composer and keyboard player Bugge Wesseltoft and German multi-instrumentalist Henrik Schwarz have long enjoyed a productive musical chemistry. This has been realised both in the live environment, where their targeted improvising brings richly creative results, and on record too.

This is their second official record as a duo, though this time they open the doors to accommodate a few guest performers.

What’s the music like?

Really engaging – and written in a way that plays to the strengths not just of the main protagonists but also the guests.

The album is well structured, mixing instrumental and vocal tracks, and ushering us in with a soft marimba of Woodened Stone, leading to a dreamy and fuzzy soundscape. My First Life then has more fidgety movements from the electronics, with signs of a more expansive piano with rippling figures from Wesseltoft.

The guests are well chosen. The most immediate is trumpeter Sebastian Studnitzky, who appears on Basstorious. He offers an impudent riff off which Wesseltoft and Schwarz feed, with more percussion added to their arguments. Meanwhile the breathy vocal of Kid Be Kid works well on My First Life, nicely structured as a verse and response before a lovely vocalise at the end.

Duolism sparkles, with good interaction between piano and strings, while Eye For An Eye plays to the vocal strengths of Jenniffer Kae, Jemma Endersby and Catharina Schorling, complemented by Wesseltoft’s purposeful piano.

Future Strings is beautifully scored, ripe for the big screen, while Now I Am Better provides a strongly voiced closing track, with piano, vibes and synthesizers all germinating ideas above a bouncy four to the floor beat.

Does it all work?

It does. Both instrumentalists bring a fresh approach to their music making, which gives the impression to the listener that the ink is still drying on the page.

Is it recommended?

Yes. If you’re familiar with either artist and their work, either in a solo capacity or as a duo, then you need not hesitate. If the names are new to you, then jump right in, for this is an album where the balance between improvisation and composition is beautifully judged. Bugge Wesseltoft and Henrik Schwarz clearly had a lot of fun making the album, and as a listener you will have the same experience!



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