By Brad Cohan | Published April 2019
Sprawling double live albums aren’t exactly a dime a dozen. The bulk of such large-scale recordings usually are reserved for a particular set of jazz royalty and unearthed archival treasures. And while Jasper Blom performed with Lee Konitz and Chet Baker, the tenor saxophonist’s standing in the annals of jazz still is a work in progress. That makes Polyphony, a two-disc live set caught on tape at Amsterdam’s Bimhuis, an anomaly. Blom is a force in The Netherland’s vibrant jazz scene, but does he carry enough weight to warrant a double album? Yes and no.
Augmented by his longtime quartet and featuring two special guests on each program (trumpeter Bert Joris on the first set, trombonist Nils Wogram on the second), Polyphony certainly boasts fine musicianship and an organic rapport. But it drags on a bit too long, while falling short on thrills. With a mixed bag of originals on the first disc, the quartet glides along with a laid-back modern jazz feel that leans on infectiously melodic composition that boasts room for meandering improvisational territory. Loose-limbed grooves, warm hooks and free-flowing interplay are Blom and company’s strong suits; their instrumentation melts into one another on the serene “Virelai” and the delicately strutting “Fontayne.” But Polyphony doesn’t kick into high gear until Wogram joins the fray, helping spearhead a muscular touch. Things finally get loud on the rollicking and funky “Running Gag” and on the herky-jerky “Least Of Your Worries,” but that moxie is short-lived. Polyphony might be better served by plucking out the filler and paring it all down to a compact, single disc.
Polyphony: Disc One: Waltz For Magnus; Guidonean Hand; Virelai; Fontayne; The Lady And The Unicorn Homme; Arme; Beatus Vir; Ciconia. Disc Two: Decidophobia; Running Gag; Nancy In The Sky; Macedonian Candidate; Least Of Your Worries; Monk Fish Cleopatra; Whirl; Antidote. (60:27/50:21)
Personnel: Jasper Blom, tenor saxophone; Bert Joris, trumpet; Jesse Van Ruller, guitar; Frans Van Der Hoeven, bass; Martijn Vink; drums; Nils Wogram, trombone.