Benjamin Koppel/Kenny Werner/ Scott Colley/Jack DeJohnette | The Art of the Quartet
Benjamin Koppel The Ultimate Soul & Jazz Review
To say Danish alto saxophonist Benjamin Koppel is ambitious would be an understatement. In the era of streaming, and in the midst of a pandemic no less, Koppel has released not one, but two albums, both double-disc affairs. This is expansive music in so many ways, each set alive with in-the-moment creativity; positively pulsing with humanity. It's enough to make one feel connected to the world while being hunkered down at home. The Art of the Quartet, featuring Hudson Valley stalwarts Scott Colley (bass) and Jack DeJohnette (drums), was tracked in Germantown, with pianist Kenny Werner rounding out the session's lengthy excursions. Even when filling the room, this combo is all about space. It surrounds every note, even the thunderous ones. "Ballad for Trane" relies on Koppel's sumptuous sax tone, floating atop Werner's wide voicings. "Bells of Belief" is a delight for DeJohnette acolytes—the drummer is propulsive but never pushy.
True to its title, The Ultimate Soul & Jazz Revue finds Koppel back to his roots, youthfully soaking up gospel-inflected sounds from across the sea. What a lineup! Colley teams here in the rhythm section with keysman Jacob Christoffersen and octogenarian funk master Bernard Purdie, whose stickwork is as thick as DeJohnette's is lean. Legendary trumpeter Randy Brecker—with his trademark fat, round sound—joins Koppel in the front line, throwing down, live in Copenhagen, on soul classics like "Them Changes," "Move on Up," and Stevie Wonder's "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing," which, it turns out, was a jazz tune all along.