AMN Reviews: Casper Nyvang Rask – Slow Evolution Ensemble (2019; Gotta Let It Out)

Casper Nyvang Rask is a double bass player from Copenhagen. Slow Evolution Ensemble, released a little over a year ago, is his debut album. This ensemble is what I will call a “double quartet +1”, with two drummers, two bassists, and five sax players, two of which double on clarinets. Rask also plays keyboards.

There is a duality to the interpretation of Rask’s compositions. Some are tightly-written – almost classical in nature with droning tones and chords. Others have a looser structure that is more amenable to free jazz. But even the more extreme blowouts have a sense of direction lurking beneath the surface. It is almost as if Rask instructed his ensemble to play some pieces from notation and others are based more of an outline. Furthermore, parts of the album seem to have one foot in both worlds, with the music drifting in between discernable patterns and improvisation, then building dense walls of sound. And, with Rask using all nine contributors, there is a lot going on even in the quiet moments.

Slow Evolution Ensemble covers a great deal of ground, and can cause a bit of cognitive dissonance at first. Nonetheless, sticking with it for a few listens will ultimately be rewarding. Rask has a unique take on free jazz and emphasizes intellect in addition to feel. This is an under-appreciated gem.