Accidental Tourists is the jazz music project led by German pianist and composer Markus Burger, who is supported, on every release, by others acclaimed and talented musicians. For his latest record, named The Alaska Sessions, Burger asked the collaboration of two of the most renowned musicians of the American jazz scene: acclaimed drummer Peter Erskine and bassist Bob Magnusson. As some already said, this ensemble basically combined European elegance with an “American drive”.
The Alaska Sessions features a collection of beautiful songs that were initially written by Burger during a series of trips he made in Alaska and then interpreted by the trio during an intense two-day recording session in Los Angeles. “Interpreted” is really the right word to use because each song uses Borg’s input melodies as the starting point for precious and fascinating improvisations by the three artists. The result is a kind of jazz that keeps always a strong melodic baseline, with lots of classical and chamber-music influences, but at the same leaves the musicians free to explore all the harmonic, rhythmic and melodic boundaries of the central motif.
The song The Beginning of a Love Affair, as an example, has at least two different levels of listening: one is that of the piece in the foreground, which is a beautiful ballad played by Burger on his piano and that could very well be isolated from the rest of the music, and considered as a piece in itself, for how it is poetic and exciting; at a deeper level of listening we can focus our attention to the animated counterpoint that’s established between the piano and the beautiful Magnusson’s bass lines.
In this specific song, the drums appear to have a supporting role, but the situation is reversed for example in the next song, Kaleidoscope, where the rhythmic component is really the backbone of the song, with a persistent rhythmic motif that is as effective as it is immediate and original. In Skeys, the duet between the piano and the drums polarizes the listener’s attention, but still, we have one of the most impressive bass solos of the entire record.
In general terms, The Alaska Sessions is absolutely, and objectively, a great album to listen to. The first thing that impressed me was the quality of the sounds. Each instrument is reproduced with a sound which is at the same time crystal clear and extremely rich of thousands of shades and nuances. The sound engineers in this case really did an outstanding job: the three instruments were recorded and balanced in a way that switching from the global harmony to the individual instruments is extremely simple and always effective.
On the musical side, I have already said that the album benefits from a selection of fascinating melodies. These manage to convey that sense of “classic” and universal amazement that only the wildest and most uncontaminated nature can give to a man. Starting from this valuable material, Erskine and Magnusson did much more than just supporting the leader, they enriched all the pieces with significant and remarkable contributions. My overall rating for the LP is 8.5/10.
My favourite songs are the opening track Perpetuum Mobile, the poignant and moving The Beginning of a Love Affair, Kaleidoscope, and Pure Imagination.
Songs from The Alaska Sessions have been included in two of the playlists that I’m curating on Spotify. One is THE JAZZ MUSIC RADAR, which features the best and latest releases of 2019. The second playlist is ABSOLUTE BEAUTY, which is my personal selection of the most charming, delicate and classical-inspired pieces. Check these out.