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Matthew Ruddick

Author of Funny Valentine, an acclaimed new biography of the jazz trumpet player and singer, Chet Baker.
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Friday, 19 June 2020 23:11

Niels Lan Doky - River of Time

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Chris Minh Doky’s older brother maintains family business: crisp, lyrical jazz.

Denmark’s produced some of my favourite music of the last decade and one shining star has been the different hues of the contemporary jazz of Danish-born, US-based bassist Chris Minh Doky.

I was aware he had a brother, Niels Lan Doky, but I’d yet to really explore that particular branch of the Danish jazz family tree apart from listening a couple of times to an average album he made with Chris in the ’nineties.

This album of resonant and beautifully crafted contemporary piano shows that the older sibling is just as capable of producing music that just grabs you by the lapels as his kid brother. 

Opener Pink Buddha demonstrates this beautifully: a popcorn-lite central piano riff darts in and out across the seven minutes of the track and its reappearance is always welcome, so clever and instantly magnetic is the refrain. Second track River of Time suggests that Niels Lan Doky feels most comfortable at slower tempos, this being a languid, meandering river of a ballad, allowing for lots of air between the notes.

Listen to Pink Buddha here:

Doky has worked with an impressive list of musicians - Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz, Michael Brecker, Lars Danielsson to name but a few - and on this album he’s supported by a great band, with Tobias Bell on bass and Niclas Bardeleben on drums: no frills, no fuss, but great togetherness.

Like his brother, Doky’s jazz is definitely transatlantic in feel, combining elements of Nordic melancholy mixed and sweet, sweet lyricism, with brasher, East coast stylings, and on the whole it works very well, this all-Danish band sounding like they would be comfortable in Odense or Oklahoma.

The album’s well stacked with twelve tracks though, on further examination, the final four are ‘radio edits’ which might make any purchaser feel a little hard done by. However, on a groove-laden track like Greasy Sauce - imagine a Phillie cheese stake of thirds and fifths - you don’t really mind hearing them again. Great slab-like chords with intricate garnishes, very appetising.

Sita’s Mood is - well - moody and introspective and almost soporific in its slow intensity shuffle, but gives back in some lovely changes. Track seven Houllebecq - inspired, one imagines, by the French novelist and controversialist Michel - is the most old school jazz track, Doky attacking the keys with a drill-like intensity in contrast to Bell and Badeleben’s pretty standard walking rhythms. Plenty to get lost in here.

Final track Hope 2020 brings to mind some of his brother’s output, the major chord stylings which open the track hinting at the positive vista suggested in the track title.

This is a musical river it was very pleasant to float down and immerse myself in, and its easy to imagine why Doky’s career continues to prosper.

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