Johannes Wallmann

Elegy For An Undiscovered Species
(Shifting Paradigm)

Johannes Wallmann and Dayna Stephens have worked together on four albums, beginning with 2015’s The Town Musicians. Their voices mesh extremely well; the saxophonist’s deeply felt romanticism is an ideal complement to the pianist’s often swoony compositions. Stephens mostly plays tenor saxophone here, though he picks up the beloved EWI (electronic wind instrument) occasionally for a squiggly, synth interlude. The aforementioned romanticism is on full display on Elegy For An Undiscovered Species, where a high-powered quintet that includes trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, bassist Nick Moran and drummer Allison Miller is augmented by a 14-piece string orchestra. Don’t expect a collection of soporific ballads, though, not with Miller behind the kit. Her martial swing is in full effect, driving the band with grace and power. When Moran picks up the electric bass on “Expeditor,” the two create a head-nodding groove that inspires Wallmann and Jensen, the orchestra pulsing behind them. On “Longing,” by contrast, the strings take a lead, carrying the melody throughout the second half with just bass, drums and minimal piano.