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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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Saturday, 18 June 2022 23:37

Mathias Heise Quadrillion - Quadrillion

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Jazz harmonica paints a kaleidoscope of colour over this outstanding album.

Back in 2017, when I first heard and reviewed Decadence, the second album by Mathias Heise Quadrillion, I wrote that “canny investors looking for a hot tip on the jazz stock market should consider purchasing shares” in this group; (a quote, incidentally, which the band’s PR team has used in the press release for Quadrillion, their third album).

Judging by what I’ve just heard on this new release, anyone who did so could happily retire on the musical riches on offer again from this Danish four-piece comprising keyboardist and chromatic harmonica genius Mathias Heise, bassist David Vang, guitarist Mads Christiansen and drummer Aksel Stadel Borum. Even after just once listen, I had the distinct feeling I would be playing this album again and again.

Opening track Blue City has a lovely up-and-down bass rhythm and is replete with chocolate-rich keyboard chords over which the in-and-out guitar of Christiansen just sings to the heavens. Borum’s drums - so simple and effective, especially his insistent tapping on the snare rim - drive this traffic relentlessly, particularly as Heise’s keyboard sound explodes. This is such as powerfully strong opening statement by the band that says: “This is what we do. And we do it damned well!”

Watch a clip of the band playing Blue City live here:

Bad Luck is the first harmonica track and so good is Heise’s playing that it makes an instrument which usually I would walk away from one that just grabs my attention. He, to put it simply, makes it sing over a deliciously smooth fusion-funk underlay. Soft Mind is the first ballad and has a powerful 3am, dimly lit, city streetscape vibe which grows in energy; Vang’s fretless solo here adds piquancy.

The harmonic acrobatics Heise and the band deploys and their readiness to go out on a limb on things like time signatures makes this album a thrilling ride. 

Every one of the five other tracks on the album has the exciting mix of jazz, rock, funk, with a detectable Danish twist. 

A Call from Quad brings to mind Iceland's Mezzoforte at their melodic best, while Carsten Kalder has some of the stretchiest, sinuous and downright bendy keyboard sounds I’ve heard in a long while, that just scream for your attention. The track is interspersed with snippets of Heise leaving a message for said Kalder on what sounds like an 80’s era telephone answering machine; I’ve no idea what he says, my Danish being non-existent, but the music behind it makes me feel I ought to know.

The Beast is just unadulterated, full-fat groove, and all the better for being so, while Bisse Funk starts off with the most languid bass and drums and guitar introduction that one might think it was playing at the wrong speed; but the track has a slow, Snarky Puppy-esque intensity that just broods. 

And that made me think: if there were an international ‘battle of the bands’ competition, in the jazz-funk-fusion category, Quadrillion would give the global jazz titans an absolute run for their money, for sure

For the last track, Hopeful Monsters, the four piece expands into nine with the addition of five Danish brass players - Anders Malta (trumpet), Jonas Due (trumpet/flugelhorn), Oilly Wallace (sax), Frederick Menzies (sax) and Yohan Ramon (percussion) - for an upbeat, big-band style flourish that is just a one-two sucker-punch. It's tremendous fun and sonically explosive, particularly with Borum’s many drum breaks and the change of tone midway, when the flugelhorn kicks in.

Whenever a favourite band release a new track, there’s always at the back of my mind that nagging worry - do they still have it? Mathias Heise and bandmates answer on this album with a resounding: “Yes”. 

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