Jan Harbeck Quartet: Balanced

Rating: ★★★

Record and Artist Details


Henrik Gunde (p)
Eliel Lazo (perc)
Eske Nørrelykke (b)
Anders Holm (d)
Jan Harbeck (ts)




Media Format:


Catalogue Number:

STUCD 22102


Rec. 10-11 April 2022

A new name to me, Danish tenorist Harbeck (born 1975) has a nicely husky tenor style, momentarily reminiscent of Ben Webster – indeed he won the Ben Webster Prize in 2018. Widely recorded in his native country, he worked with the influential Ernie Wilkins Almost Big Band while his long-standing quartet (active since 2007) has elicited appreciative responses to both its live appearances and earlier recordings.

On this evidence, Harbeck's explorations are easy to like, their contained expressiveness miles away from today's intensity and prolix grand-standing. All nine pieces on the album are his, ‘One Fine Day’ like a languorous walk in the park, his tenor slipping and sliding around the theme, the tenor sound wispy and stealthy at times. Webster-ish, certainly, with more than a hint of Paul Gonsalves’ slightly off-centre approach. Drummer Holm plays his insistent figures well and pianist Gunde prompts neatly, his solo playing open and lucid.

‘The Enchanter’ raises the tempo a tad, conga-man Lazo added, Harbeck still taking the straight-ahead route, as the trio begins to romp a little, the tenorist noodling ruminatively, with the occasional wave to the bystanding crowd. ‘Woodwind’ has a yearning quality, hinting at romance – and yes, I am writing this on 14 February – while ‘The Drive’ is chunkier, bluesy almost, with Gunde flexing his musical muscles impressively. Imagine a Stan Getz solo slowed down from 45rpm to 33rpm and you can get the picture. There are no tear-ups, no chest-beating challenges, just gently persuasive playing. A surprise, certainly, but a pleasing one.

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