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Better Times Ahead by Anke Helfrich Trio Featuring Roy Hargrove

Anke Helfrich’s dream was to make an album with Roy Hargrove as a special guest. That dream is realized in this album, recorded when the Roy Hargrove Quintet was on tour of Germany and stopped into the studio with the German pianist and her trio for a day. The result is a wonderful mix of styles and influences, showcasing the various backgrounds of the musicians.

The album starts off on the right foot with a grooving 5/4 number entitled "Movin’ In", where Anke and bassist Martin Gjakonovski have some good interplay. Anke also takes a few choruses that follow that boogie-woogie feel of the beat. Gjakonovski takes two choruses by himself, then he and Anke move in on a vamp while drummer Dejan Terzic uses the 5/4 beat to his advantage in a terrific drum solo.

The mood changes abruptly with "Der Turm", the first tune on the album featuring Roy Hargrove. The piece starts with a punctuated unison figure that dissolves into a surreal, ambient, soulful trumpet solo. The tempo increases, and with it the level of improvisation, building to an animated call and response session between Hargrove and Anke. The segment ends with percussive hits from the piano and drums along with high licks from Hargrove’s trumpet, coming down to a quiet passage reminiscent of the beginning before the original theme is restated.

"Better Times Ahead", another original, has a funky groove that reminds the listener immediately of Dizzy Gillespie’s "Manteca". Anke’s solo is in a subtly different style from her others on this album, harkening more back to her influences in Horace Silver and Les McCann. Terzic and Gjakonovski back her up with a tight groove that still has a lot of flavor to it on its own.

Another one of Anke’s influences, Thelonious Monk, provides "I Mean You", one of the few non-originals on the album. It turns into a much faster romp, however, than the original. This selection has some of Hargrove’s best playing on the album as he takes two burning choruses. Anke, not to be out done, does some fine work of her own, and then the two proceed to trade eights with Terzic.

The rest of the albums tracks are just as phenomenal, and the playing remains at a high standard through out. The trio works incredibly well together, playing very tightly and in style. Hargrove and Anke have a good sense of communication and understanding between them, which allows their musical ideas to mesh in a number of ways. Overall, this album was very fresh and interesting, with plenty learn from.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Anke Helfrich Trio Featuring Roy Hargrove
  • CD Title: Better Times Ahead
  • Genre: Contemporary Jazz / Modern
  • Year Released: 2005
  • Record Label: Double Moon/Challenge Records
  • Rating: Five Stars
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