Thirty-three-year-old Danish saxophonist Benjamin Koppel and 59-year-old American jazz pianist Kenny Werner were in Copenhagen recording a lot of music last year. After the rest of the band went home following an extended day in the studio, the two longtime friends decided to keep the session going. What emerged eventually was "Walden," a full-length CD that attempts to transpose the musings of Henry David Thoreau into a conversation between sax and piano.
Consisting of nine sections whose titles are drawn from Thoreau's book - "Cows in Emerson's Pasture," "Where I Lived and What I Lived For," "Paradise (to be) Regained" - the work is an ambitious exploration in sound both of nature and thought, described by one critic as "a landscape of ever-inventive harmonies, over which Koppel's saxophone hums like a lonely bird flying around in a misty sky." Dan DeNicola- Daily Hampshire Gazette
This Tuesday, October 5th, Koppel and Werner will be at the Iron Horse in Northampton to perform the complete work. 7 p.m. $17.50 advance; $20 at the door. Buy online here.
Walden distills the musical friendship of Werner and Koppel into its purest and most beautiful essence. It's a duo album where the musings of Henry David Thoreau are translated into poignant poetic sketches that celebrate life by cutting into a fragile state of mind where every note, every sigh from the instruments reveals the intimacy of the mysteries of nature. On "Cows in Emerson's Pasture," Werner creates the soft ebb and flow on the piano, a landscape of ever-inventive harmonies, over which Koppel's saxophone hums like a lonely bird flying around in a misty sky.
What is most fascinating about Walden is that it brings the tactile nature of the instruments into focus while, at the same time, making the melodies soar with ethereal beauty. Ballads such as "Life in The Woods" and "Paradise (to be) Regained" are complex despite their melodic simplicity, deepening as phrases are sculpted and turned into a vibrating work of art. Pianist George Winston's series of records reflecting the changing seasons comes to mind when trying to identify a similar ambitious exploration of nature in sound, but Walden is in a class of its own. It's a high-water mark in the continually inspiring and musically challenging friendship of Benjamin Koppel and Kenny Werner.