Gerard Presencer – Groove Travels

Gerard Presencer "Groove Travels"One of the most important trumpeters on the European scene, Gerard Presencer, at age 18, played the trumpet on US3’s groundbreaking success record “Cantaloop”, the remake of Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island”. Since then, he has released several records, one of which is the 2003 release “Chasing Reality” on ACT Music. Gerard has also played with Charlie Watts for the past 25 years or so.

Now he is back with a big bang: the Danish Radio Big Band. This is not your typical big band recording as in swinging charts and revisiting the golden era of big band music from the 30s. It is a very modern and contemporary approach to playing with a big band and features some stirring grooves as in the funky “Blues For Des” which also has some wonderful Rhodes touches, played by Henrik Gunde.

The album opens with the mild and midtempo, and also very catchy “Another Weirdo” and continues with a slowed-down, nicely arranged ballad (“Ballad Or Tango Of The Misunderstood”). It has some Gil Evans-like, modernist attempts to play around with time and again uses the Rhodes for a really cute mid-song solo. Things get rocky on “Devil’s Larder” where Per Gade‘s guitar introduces a track full of tension and relief moments. This track struggles too hard to really make an impact, though.

There are interesting cover songs which all work quite well: “Eleanor Rigby” reminds me of some of the big band stuff that Quincy Jones did in the 60s and early 70s – he never really shifts the focus away from the groove and sprinkles it with some Rhodes and guitar touches. Sounds good. Wayne Shorter‘s “Footprints” comes along in a lush, generous arrangement and turns into a veritable, percussive romp about three minutes into the mix where the saxophone takes the lead.

And the Leo Sayer standard “I Can’t Stop Loving You” is treated here with a lot of sophisticated writing and some warm and sensitive playing throughout. But it is in the pulsating, infectious grooves (hence the title) of most of the tracks where the strength of this album can be found. “Istanbul Coffee Cup” has this irresistible, haunting and exotic underscore and a mesmerizing theme – it is hard to resist.

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