In 2012, after an intense week at the Copenhagen Jazz Festival playing two to three concerts a day, Marc Mommaas and Nikolaj Hess ended their incredible run with a duo concert performing ballads and standards only, starting with a beautiful ballad written by Duke Ellington, “In a Sentimental Mood.” Mommaas and Hess have been playing together for close to 20 years in a variety of formations but perhaps their favorite setting is duo, where their connection, sensitivity and brilliance can shine most brightly.
“…It felt incredible to play a ballad after all that activity, and recognizing this as a very special moment we decided to keep the ballads and slower standards coming until the music would give us the cue to shift gear. But that never happened, the magic kept on coming …” (Mommaas).
This concert became one for the books and it was inevitable that this high level of performance would eventually be documented. The magic which instigated this project resulted in a brilliant recording session, supported on a few tracks by bassist Thomas Morgan and guitarist Vic Juris. The set starts off with a breathtaking rendition of “Peacocks” followed by “Ask Me Now,” “The Shadow of Your Smile,” “In a Sentimental Mood,” “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” “Never Let Me Go” and finishing up with, possibly, the greatest tenor ballad ever written, “Body and Soul.”
Playing Ballads and Standards is a delicate process since each tune has an extensive track record of celebrated renditions performed by Jazz masters from the past. Yet Marc and Nikolaj, with their intimate, warm and concentrated approach, succeeded in producing a stellar and deeply personal performance that stands out and should not be missed. You will be in for a very special and inviting listening experience.
“….. it is no accident that it took so long for me to record standards. Coming from an eclectic background I have always been involved in pushing the boundaries, exploring new sounds, shapes, rhythms and colors. Like all young lions, in my earlier years I played standards as a vehicle to get my language together, but it took a long life cycle of experimentation and exploration before I was ready and comfortable to get back to standards and give it personal meaning. I truly enjoyed this process, finding out how much I connected with these standards, and although I get equally excited by projects involving contemporary, rhythmically and harmonically diverse compositions (Global Motion, 2003) or even freer settings such as my saxophone solo release (Irreversible Momentum, 2013), I will always come back to the standards and pay tribute to the beautiful tradition in the art form that I love so much, jazz and improvisation.…” (Mommaas).
This release is the counterpoint of another duo release by Sunnyside in 2006, Balance, which involves original compositions written by Mommaas and has Hess as a sideman.
released February 5, 2016
Marc Mommaas - saxophone
Nikolaj Hess - piano
Thomas Morgan - bass
Vic Juris - guitar