The first impression you get listening to the debut album of jazz saxophone/flutist Sarah Elgeti’s quintet, Into the Open, is the variety of styles and influences. For some this may be the sign of a young artist who has not yet found her voice; for others, an indication of her impressive versatility. Count me among the later. Indeed, if further evidence of her versatility is needed, it turns out that Elgeti has also studied and performs classical clarinet and flute.
Living in Denmark, home to a thriving jazz scene, Elgeti fronts a quintet with her tenor and soprano sax and her flute. She is joined by the alto and baritone sax of Marianne Markmann-Ericksen. The rhythm section includes guitarist Christian Bluhme Hansen, bassist Jens Kristian Anderson, and drummer Thomas Præstegaard. This is a tight comfortable unit that knows how to work together. Moreover, like their leader, they are equally adept voicing a variety of styles. Guests on some of the tracks include saxophonists Mikkel Uhrenholdt and Magnus Poulsen. Ben Besiakov plays piano, and Rhodes on three tracks.
The 12 tracks on Into the Open are all original Elgeti compositions; there are 11 different songs and a remix of one. The album opener “Home” spotlights the leader on tenor, the richness of her tone emphasized by the subdued contributions of the rest of the group. “Bossa Among the Trees,” the song that is remixed as the last track, follows with an original take on the Brazilian dance, some fine guitar work from Hansen, and another intense solo from Elgeti. The remix uses “an electronic table like rhythm sample” which perhaps unfortunately seems to take over the song.
“Out in the Fields” and “Angelique,” a song written for Elgeti’s mother, are opportunities for the two saxophonists to show their lyrical side. Both are elegant ballads played with emotional subtlety. Besiakov adds some nice touches on the piano and a tender solo of his own. “Downstairs” begins with a funky vibe and morphs into a sound reminiscent of the swinging big band era, a sound that comes back with a more modern take with the jumping “Blustering Waves.” Both tracks are augmented by the guest performers. “Ringe I Vand,” which Elgeti’s publicity translates as “let it rain,” shows what she can do with the flute, and has you wondering why she hasn’t done some more. Luckily, it shows up again on “Clouds” joined at the hip with Markmann-Ericksen’s alto.
Then, just to show that she has a harder edge, there are songs like the ominous throbbing “But I Wish I Could,” “Trying to Forget” with its touches of dissonance, and the avant-garde sounds of “Night Moves.” These last two especially have to make you wonder if you’re hearing the same group. They make a convincing demonstration that it might have been a good idea to have called this debut CD, “The Many Sides of the Sarah Elgeti Quintet.” This is after all an ensemble led by a musician with many strengths and it would be a mistake to hide any one of them under the proverbial bushel.