Marking Anders Koppel’s first solo Hammond organ release, Everything Is Subject to Change is an intriguing mix of atmospherics and organics. Pianist Kenny Werner and saxophonist Benjamin Koppel imbue the music with an austere elegance, whereas Anders Koppel’s organ and Jacob Andersen’s percussion brings an earthy element to the music. The balance between the two makes for an album that equally engages head and heart.
Your album personnel: Anders Koppel (organ), Benjamin Koppel (saxophones), Kenny Werner (piano & Fender Rhodes), and Jacob Andersen (drums & percussion).
The danger here would’ve been two-albums-in-one: Half the songs maintaining a groove and bop, and the other half a jazz-classical fusion. Instead, the organ provides a wintery ambiance when sax is out front, and a gospel warmth when organ takes center stage.
The lightness of the sax is grounded by organ and percussion, and Werner’s piano sometimes gives a subtle lift to the sound and sometimes acts to keep it tethered to the Earth, making for a nifty harmonic pairing. And though very different sounds, Koppel’s organ and Werner’s piano display a conversant ease that is the glue to the music’s success.
The album opens with a sense of mystery that pulls at the ears, and which would’ve been right at home on any of the recordings of classic world jazz ensemble, Oregon. There’s some scattered percussion, some welcoming piano phrases, some haunting organ that drifts in and out, followed by the pensive wails of Koppel’s sax.
At times, it sounds like a poetry reading has broken out at a church gospel revival. Anders Koppel’s declarations on organ trading shouts with his son’s lyrical cadence on sax, while Werner’s piano indulges in clever word play as Andersen repeatedly builds tension with gradually rising tempos to get ‘em up out of their pews.
Werner’s presence doesn’t change much throughout the album, never breaking out ahead of the pack, but also never trailing behind. This provides a steadying presence that is a big contributor to the album’s surprising cohesion. Even when he switches to Fender Rhodes, he brings the same elegance as with piano, the primary contrast being the brightness of the Rhodes against the piano’s stark beauty.
Benjamin Koppel has a signature sound on sax. He is active in both Jazz and Classical fields, and he seems to have found the ideal ratio of those two genres to reflect in his playing. His music possesses a meticulous precision and an emotional impact, a pairing that he brings successfully to any project he’s involved with.
Strongest track on the album is “What Seas, What Shores,” which has the quartet’s instruments fused at the hip and results in some dramatic moments of spooky groove and jazz avant-drone. Anders provides a bass harmony to Benjamin’s sax as it drifts searchingly into the heart of the composition. Anderson begins with nighttime percussion of sudden bursts of sticks and chimes, then, like the rise of of the sun, uses drums to build a simmering heat just below the surface of the music. Werner’s piano lines dart between the notes of the other three, his presence only sometimes heard, but always felt.
Everything Is Subject to Change is a potent mix of elements that fuse together successfully into an album that bursts with life as it drifts from one moment of serenity to the next.
Released on the Cowbell Music label.
Jazz from Denmark.