If you are looking for soft yet uplifting jazz, then look no further, because Cecilie Strange has just the medicine for you. Blikan, her latest solo album is packed to the rafters with fantastically smooth jazz movements, that flutter effortlessly between relaxing and engaging. Composing and playing tenor sax, she leads her quartet with incredible skill, blending contemporary Scandinavian sounds with her experience in the New York jazz scene. The result is a really unique and moving sound, capturing a range of emotions.
Blikan is the second album released from a 2019 recording session in Copenhagen, Denmark, the first being last year’s critically acclaimed album Blue. Combining both albums in one playthrough, you will be blown away by the depth of sound, especially considering Strange only played for the first time with the collaborating artists during the two-day session. Whilst her tenor sax is the star of the show, her cohorts deserve equal praise for their parts too. On piano is Peter Rosendal, on bass Thommy Andersson, and finally drummer Jacob Høyer. It is the perfect amount of musicians, with Strange composing melancholic pieces that allow for plenty of space for each instrument to be heard and savoured completely.
You’ll grasp the mood of the album quite quickly from the first track, a sombre, melancholic tone mixed with an uplifting positivity that reflects both the Scandinavian culture Strange represents, along with the time she spent playing in the New York jazz scene. “Eudaimonia” is a slow-moving track, with plodding bass that serves you brilliantly as you wake up in the morning, or share a meal in the spring evening. The emotive tenor sax tells a number of stories, supplemented with beautifully brushed drum and cymbal patter. Spanning out nine minutes in length, you really sink into the soft caress of the quartet’s sound, letting it wash over you in waves.
What is most engaging about the record though, is that it doesn’t steer away from experimental tropes and still pushes the boundaries of the artist’s talents, with songs such as “Wild Flower” taking a much more minimal but harder to compose approach. This incredibly soft track shows the tenor sax at its most relaxing on the album, with the control over the tone stunning from Strange. One can only imagine how incredible this would be to see live, with each flourish sending shivers down your spine. The cascading drums and docile piano serve as incredible ambience alongside the sax, allowing you to drift off into blissful harmony.
That experimental and minimal nature flourishes in the ‘final track’ (I also had access to the cool CD bonus track), “Jag vet en dejlig rosa”, another sublimely relaxing piece that really lets your mind wander. Of course, one of the facets that help is the marvellous production, which sets out a wide and surrounding soundstage. Each instrument is crisp, allowing you to hear the macro details these great musicians drop into the music.
Like Blue, Blikan shows that Cecilie Strange is one to watch in the contemporary jazz scene, and as restrictions ease over the coming years, I hope to see her make her way to our shores for some intimate live shows. I’ve largely been a fan of big, bouyant jazz, but the subtle, yet powerful emotions portrayed in Blikan has captured me wholly. I look forward to hearing much more of Strange’s work.