Night Tree – Dedications

Album Review | Self Release | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 4/5

While sounding like they come from everywhere, drawing in Irish, traditional, classical, bluegrass and European jazz, this American Swedish band came together as members of Boston’s New England Conservatory.  Dedications is the band’s second album and it is a stunner.  The first track, the curiously titled “Elvish Welfare Suite no 1” is a collision between expansive instrumental folk and ECM jazz, the fiddle and the saxophone soar together.  Moments of joyous celebration that slam and swirl, dance with moments of reflection.  The paired back solo violin, as evocative as Vaughan Williams’ “Lark Ascending”, twines with a Jan Garbarek pure Saxophone and a growling accordion.  “The Last Day of Summer” is another earworm tune, this time carried on the Cello and Fiddle.  Strangely reminiscent of Toto’s “Africa”, it has the bounce, lightness and indefinability of the best of The Penguin Cafe Orchestra.  Percussionist Julian Loida’s instrument list reads like a poem and he uses his array of drums to great effect on “Oya”, building up a very African groove.  After swirling, stomping instrumental music, “North Carolina Cottage” starts as delicate earthy Bluegrass with Sunniva Brynnel’s beautiful voice well to the fore.  Typically for Night Tree the song doesn’t musically stand still for long and soon bowed Cello bass line is soon joined by a snorting bellowing free jazz forest animal saxophone.  The end, like the Brass folk dance “Year with the Yeti/Wings from the North” that follows is uplifting and vital leaving you with that woodland walk flow.  “Baby Blue” is a stunning lullaby written by Julian Loida, rich doo wop vocals blend seamlessly with plucked fiddle strings, the effect is atmospheric and uplifting.  “The Girl in the White Dress”, written for Lily, one of the band’s violin players manages to be both a delicate accordion mist and a huge stomping furious dance as only Night Tree can.  Like “North Carolina Cottage”, “Blue-Eyed Sailor” is a ballad interlude to the frenetic instrumentals, a piano led Celtic influenced song, with Sunniva’s beautiful voice centre stage.  The final track “Gentle Storm” marries one of those circular Soprano saxophone parts that always makes me think of Jan Garbarek’s Nordic Folk Jazz, to a rustic fiddle dance.  Here, as on the rest of the album, saxophonist Zach Mayer’s playing is just sublime.  The band profess to sometimes playing in the dark, to force them to really listen to each other’s playing.  If you like music firmly contained within one genre, without deviation or progression then you’ll hate this. If you like music that goes where it pleases or where it needs, following the sounds and spirit rather than watching for boundaries, signs and maps, then you will love Night Tree and Dedications.