Pianist Louise Denson and alto saxophonist Martha Baartz are co-leaders on this debut album by a relatively new group featuring their original compositions. It was recorded live at the Brisbane International Jazz Festival in 2017 at the Brisbane Multicultural Centre.
Originally from Canada, Denson has lectured at Queensland Conservatorium for more than 20 years, producing four albums there with her LDG ensemble since 1996. Baartz worked in Melbourne with the Baartz-Freeman Sextet before moving back to the Byron Bay area, where she teaches saxophone at Lismore campus of Southern Cross University and is a first-call saxophonist from Brisbane to the Northern Rivers.
The group also features bassist Helen Russell, and drummer Aaron Jansz, with Malcolm Wood on flugelhorn.
Denson and Baartz are perfectly matched in this delightful collection of tunes which range from gently driving swing in Kingston Blues (Baartz) to the more pensive Now You Are Gone (Denson), which begins with solo piano before the alto saxophone floats in a wistful, slow lament. The album feels infused with balmy air currents, yet the toes will be tapping during Sambacita (Denson) and the jaunty She Can (Baartz). Piano and sax combine to give momentum in Cheek (Denson), and there is a bright and saucy strength to King’s Gold (Baartz). The alto muses over strong bass and piano rhythms in Lately (Denson). The title track (Baartz) seems less about foreboding and perhaps more about the gradual closing of a day, while the beautiful Murphy’s Love (Baartz) is a dreamy soliloquy woven tenderly with piano, bass, sax and flugelhorn notes.
Dark Sky is a debut album for this group, yet it feels like a completion – a coming together that was meant to happen.
Dark Sky was recorded, mixed and mastered by Mark Smith of Real Productions, and was released under the Pinnacles Music label.
Album launch dates for Dark Sky:
Sunday February 10, 8-10 pm, The Jazzlab, Leslie Street, Brunswick (supported by the Melbourne Jazz Co-op)
Friday February 22, 7.30pm – 10pm, The Brisbane Jazz Club, Kangaroo Point, Brisbane
Sunday March 3rd, 3-5pm, The Lismore City Bowling Club, Lismore
* I don’t like giving stars, because they mean such different things to different people, but the rating is out of five and that number would rarely, if ever, be reached, and then only on an album that had stood the test of time.