The discography of Danish, London-based alto sax player Julie Kjær is unfortunately quite slim. Her last solo album with her Danish Kvartet was released seven years ago (Baglæns Ind I Det Forkerte Rum, Gateway, 2009). She collaborated with the all-women chamber jazz Pierette Ensemble (Akrostik, Gateway, 2014) and in a yet-to-be-recorded free-improvising trio of tenor sax player Rachel Musson and cellist Hannah Marshall, Paal Nilssen-Love Large Unit (2015 and Ana, PNL, 2016) and the London Improvisers Orchestra.
Dobbeltgæenger is the album that can mark Kjær as a sax hero to reckon with. Her trio feature one of the greatest rhythm sections around, the free-improv veterans double bass player John Edwards and drummer Steve Noble, whose list of collaborations with sax players only encompasses legends as Peter Brötzmann, Joe McPhee, Evan Parker, Alan Wilkinson and Lol Coxhill. Kjær 3 was recorded at the Vortex club in London on January 2015.
Kjær has a distinct sound of her own, edgy and opinionated, full of intense energy, often extended with her breathing techniques. For this recording, she wrote five pieces and the other is a trio improvisation. All the pieces suggest a wise and nuanced approach, matching sounds with rhythm. The opening piece, “Out of Sight”, is a masterful demonstration of fast-shifting rhythmic dynamics, from a playful pulse to abstract and subtle free-improvised segments, without losing the focused interplay. “Face” and “Dear Mr. Bee” offer an even tighter rhythmic form, cemented by Edwards’ exemplary driving role, played on the bow on the latter. Both pieces enable Kjær and Noble to elaborate on the rhythm with surprising and arresting ideas. “Alto Madness” highlights Kjær’s inventive and commanding play of extended breathing techniques which are transformed into a playful, humorous chase between all three musicians. The trio free-improvisation “Pleasantly Troubled” suggests a more restrained and contemplative spirit, where they construct and deconstruct the tension patiently and yet still with great rhythmic focus. The last title-piece (in Nordic mythology dobbeltgæenger is a ghostly double who precedes a living person and is seen performing their actions in advance) is the most open-ended piece, stressing the highly personal and always searching vocabulary of these three gifted musicians and their immediate interplay, wisely sketching a moving texture that attaches more colors and nuances.