Christian Vuust, a native of Aarhus, Denmark, focuses on the tenor sax for this, his 15th album as leader or co-leader. During an extended 2013 visit to New York, he was “inspired by the city’s diverse and creative environment” and put a period on his American experience by hitting the studio with pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Ben Street, and drummer Jeff Ballard. The quartet dug into nine quietly colorful tunes written by Vuust. Up first is “Helgenæs,” named for a peninsula that the residents of Aarhus view across a bay. The music, featuring rather rubato drums and lovely tenor sax and piano, is cool, easy, and vital, with epic overtones. “Lærke” (Danish for “lark,” and a common female name in the country) is another piece both relaxed but charged, Vuust playing rich-toned tenor in the lead but with dynamic accompaniment. For the title track, gentle, lovely piano, plodding bass, and shimmery brushed cymbals form the foundation for the leader’s poignant sax-song — but again, his collaborators are contributing more than mere rhythm the whole time. “Wedding Song” is a placid march, the loose drums yielding a forlorn, disconnected quality, although Vuust and Parks anchor the music with sober beauty. The more suspenseful “Biking the Big Apple,” with its impressions of rolling and pedaling, is a highlight. Mostly restrained and painted in twilight hues, Urban Hymn is always involving.
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