Guitarist Joe Pass and bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen both play well on these live performances, but the reason to acquire this set is for the remarkable Oscar Peterson. The pianist brilliantly investigates several jazz styles on "Blues Etude" (including stride and boogie-woogie), plays exciting versions of his "Chicago Blues" and "Easy Listening Blues," tears into "Secret Love," and shows honest emotion on "Come Sunday." Peterson really flourished during his years with Norman Granz's Pablo label, and this was one of his finest recordings of the period.
Helge Sunde is a 44-year-old Norwegian trombonist and composer who often works with jazz/classical composer Geir Lysne, sounds as if he checks out Hermeto Pascoal, Django Bates, Carla Bley, and British jazz and TV composer Colin Towns – and who has produced a cracker of a contemporary big-band album with this set. Sunde's Denada ensemble has produced powerful work before, but the balance of moods, melodic variety and arranging ingenuity on Finding Nymo (the sax-playing Nymo brothers Frode and Atle are star soloists) ought to raise his standing outside continental Europe. He throws listeners off the big-band scent with the eerie vocoder whispers at the start, but busy phrase-swapping between the horns, and arrhythmic ensemble riffs with solo-sax wails rising out of them introduce a Django Bates feel. When In Rome is a hooting, swaggering theme with revving engines and street noise, Valse Triste starts like a funeral lament and turns into a demonically waltzing dance, and the title track begins as tentative, sputtery improv, then coalesces into a melody.
Music in the early 20th century did pass from one medium to another, from late Romanticism into an unknown future. Refractions allows the listener to sample this transition through the choral music of four very different composers.
Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen was a Danish jazz upright bassist known for his impressive technique and innovative approach. By the age of fifteen, he had the ability to accompany leading musicians at nightclubs, working regularly at Copenhagen's Jazzhus Montmartre, after his debut there on New Year's Eve 1961, when he was only 15. When seventeen, he had already turned down an offer to join the Count Basie orchestra, mainly because he was too young to get legal permission to live and work as a musician in America.