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Album Review: Garden of Sounds
Lars Jansson / Thomas Agergaard
Cover image of the album Garden of Sounds by Lars Jansson / Thomas Agergaard
Garden of Sounds
Lars Jansson / Thomas Agergaard
2023 / Arts Music
66 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Garden of Sounds is a fascinating jazz collaboration by Swedish pianist/composer Lars Jansson and Danish saxophonist/flutist/composer Thomas Agergaard. Both artists are celebrated as significant, influential figures in Scandinavian jazz, and this album pays homage to some of their own greatest influences including John Cage, Wayne Shorter, Keith Jarrett, Charlie Haden, Duke Ellington and George Gershwin. The eighteen tracks on the album are seventeen originals by the two composers, both singly and jointly, plus their arrangement of Gershwin's "I Loves You Porgy."

The album has a very "live," immediate feeling much like being in the room with the performers and experiencing the music as it is created. A significant portion of the album is comprised of two "Birds Flying Suites." The first Suite is in three parts and the second is in four and both are freely improvised adventures in musical discovery. Although the two artists have performed together often, they had never ventured into this form of improvisation before, and the results are both inspiring and beautiful to listen to. In his liner notes for the album, producer Thomas Lyngdam-Lange says: "A sense of space is how I would describe this project, and what I am searching for as a producer. To find the rooms or niches in the music where the unexpected happens. This album is full of these moments."

Garden of Sounds begins with the title track, Lars Jansson's homage to American classical composer John Cage (1912-92). Smooth, open and very soulful, Jansson's piano and Agergaard's sax let us know right away that we are embarking on a very special musical experience! Agergaard's "Everyday" is a celebration of the magic in the quiet moments of everyday life. Very relaxed and smooth with a hint of mystery, it's a favorite. "Kids Playing" (Jansson) expresses the joy and freedom of being "in the moment" combined with the innocence of children just being themselves and following their imaginations. "I Loves You Porgy" comes from George Gershwin's folk opera, Porgy and Bess, and Agergaard's arrangement was inspired by Keith Jarret's recording of the song. Both artists really shine on this one! Uncomplicated and from the heart, it's also a favorite. "Birds Flying Suite 1" features Agergaard on alto flute along with Jansson's piano, and all three parts of the suite express the ease and freedom of birds in flight, letting the wind currents and breezes carry them along. "Memories Of Summer" (Agergaard) was composed on a summer morning - "The melody was just there in the room." Smooth and carefree with an infectious piano rhythm, this one feels very blissful to me. "Quiet View" (Agergaard) is much darker and more somber - almost an instrumental soliloquy. I really like this one, too! "A Rare Italian Bird" (Jansson) is a tribute to the Italian clarinetist and ornithologist Gabriele Mirabassi. A duet for piano and flute, it is also a nod to John Cage, as playing Cage's music is one of Mirabassi's favorite things to do. The second "Birds Flying Suite" feels even more spontaneous than the first one and is a mix of sax and piano, and flute and piano. The interplay between the musicians is sometimes mysterious and sometimes playful, but is always honest and in the moment. I love the rhythmic piano groove and how it contrasts with the flute in Part 4 - a great ending to an excellent album!

Garden of Sounds is available to stream or download from Amazon and Apple Music/iTunes and can also be streamed on several sites including Spotify. Be sure to check this one out!
June 12, 2023
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