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Palle Mikkelborg/Jakob Bro/Marilyn Mazur - Strands (ECM)

21 November 2023

A Danish jazz summit, the concert captured on Strands brings together three different generations of Denmark-born or based improvisers. Trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg is the connecting thread here: the elder statesman has worked extensively with both percussionist Marilyn Mazur (including on the mid-eighties Miles Davis album Aura, a suite composed by Mikkelborg) and guitarist Jakob Bro (cf. the 2018 signpost Returnings). This show recorded in Copenhagen puts Mazur in the middle of the ongoing Bro-Mikkelborg collaboration. Performing mostly the guitarist’s tunes, the arrangements lean heavily on the mystical atmosphere both men emit at their most comfortable, Bro’s liquid guitar lines and psychedelic loops setting the pace for Mikkelborg to ornate with sinuous trumpet or flugelhorn melodies. But Mazur adds a whimsical air, her trademark percussion insertions more about making the songs playful than keeping the beat. She uses her arsenal of bells, xylophone, chimes, and miscellaneous noisemakers – plus her actual drum kit – to keep the ground beneath her pals’ feet constantly shifting, which makes the music flow like a river instead of float like clouds. This take on “Returnings” even kicks up a fair amount of dust, with Mazur at her most propulsive, Mikkelborg at his most assertive, and Bro at his most gnarly. Strands is a gorgeous record that makes us wish we’d been there that night.