Traeben is a quartet of two Danes and two Dutchmen. Guitarist Jens Larsen and double bass player Olaf Meijer met at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague, and, with tenor saxophonist Soren Ballegaard and a different drummer, they recorded a disc called Nordic Project in 2009.
Now, with the addition of drummer Haye Jellema, the new Traeben is complete. And Push is the charming result. Paces are fairly gentle, the mood is quiet and relaxed, and the solos are as full of melody as the written tunes themselves.
The complementing timbres of gritty tenor and bell-like guitar are always a pleasure to hear, and sharing a long-legged melody in harmony, as they do on Can You?, shows them off well. The moods vary with the opener, Top Dog, having a lithe, dance feel to it, while We’ll Let You Know has a heavier, stamping tune, although the band lightens when soloing before building the funk back up.
There are all the usual 21st-century, well-educated jazz elements here: sophisticated harmonies, a variety in meter, both odd and even, and original compositions that might have an implicit acknowledgement of jazz’s past but don’t wear it ostentatiously, and blend the written notes and the improvisations almost seamlessly.
An interesting angle in financing the writing and recording original music emerges on the album cover. The tune All Or Nothing At All has been adopted by one supporter, while another friend of the band has named a Traeben composition after his son, so is noted as the “title owner” in the track listing.
A thoroughly enjoyable album with a fresh European face to it. The call it “modern song based jazz” and that just about sums it up.