Randal Despommier featuring Ben Monder

A Midsummer Odyssey

Alto saxophonist Randal Despommier’s A Midsummer Odyssey is a deep mood. A project that features all compositions written by Swedish baritone saxophonist Lars Gullin, Despommier returns us to his time spent in Europe, where first encountered Gullin’s music in the mid-2000s. Gullin is an interesting muse. Known for what was called “fäbodjazz,” he was a performer who was deeply influenced by Swedish folk music. His compositions offer an opportunity for creative explorations, particularly in a moment where the category of jazz feels more open.

A duo album with guitarist Ben Monder, Despommier’s reworkings of Gullin’s music are driven by a robust sound, full of feeling but less than overbearing. Their light touch and palpable chemistry produce a lovely jaunt through tunes that breathe easy. This is perhaps most successful on “Silhouette,” a ballad where this connection shines through. This is where Desposmmier’s attempt to do something new with Gullin’s work is perhaps most striking. Monder establishes a foundation that allows Despommier to traverse a landscape evoked by the imagery of a midsummer’s odyssey. And if the intent was to reveal something of the heart of Gullin’s music, this effort was worth the journey.

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