Editor's info: Solo jazz guitar records are not that common, solo acoustic guitar records perhaps even less so outside of the classical and folk/world traditions. Apart from Ralph Towner, Earl Klugh and Gene Bertoncini it’s hard to think of many guitarists in jazz today primarily making music on an unamplified acoustic instrument. But Ploug (co-leader and main composer of the avant chamber jazz trio Equilibrium, with three releases on Songlines) is a jazz guitarist with interests in folk, world and classical music. And the guitar that inspired him to create and record this program is neither a classical guitar nor some ordinary folk/blues/bluegrass guitar.
The background to the record is almost as interesting as the music on it. On tour last year in the U.S., Mikkel chanced upon a well-worn but rare mahogany-top Gibson Banner LG-2 in New York. (The story of the Banners, made during the war by a primarily female work force, is told in John Thomas’s book and film Kalamazoo Gals.) Right away he loved the sound, and eventually he got the guitar to Copenhagen. He spent the next four months playing it every day, generating and refining ideas for pieces. Then it was into the studio (ribbon mics in a warm wooden room) to record the ones he liked best.
He had never really considered himself an acoustic guitar player – his main ax for the last ten years has been a Gibson ES-330 hollow body. “But then I found this old Banner…Part of its warm sound has to do with the mahogany body and top – most Gibson guitars from that time [around 1945] were with spruce tops which have more high end, but this guitar produces a subtle beautiful high end too. To me it sounded like no other guitar I had played before, I would describe the sound as warm, ringing and very balanced from top to bottom. It’s clear to me that the wood has settled beautifully, and the guitar has lots of character…It’s not necessarily easy to play, and certain passages on the tune ‘Arabesque’ for example were next to unplayable for me until just before or actually on the recording date. But that was part of the excitement!”
The composing process was different too. “The guitar would push me around stylistically – sometimes ask me to include less notes in a voicing or more open strings, and just opened up new fields of inspiration. Some of the beauty of it to me was that a very simple chord would just sound so good and so rich that often it would feel like it was enough as a starting point to spur a composition. I explored various concepts, whether it was a certain playing style or technique like on ‘Arabesque’ [his own favourite], ‘Alleviation’ and ‘Florescence’ or a melodic or harmonic concept like on ‘Couleurs d’Olivier’, a composition based on Messiaen’s modes of limited transposition. ‘Circle Wind’ is written with Steve Reich’s repetitive work in mind and ‘Luminous’ is my Ben Monder tribute piece.”
He fingerpicks about half the tunes here: “The world of fingerpicking I find fascinating but my inspiration doesn’t come from any particular style, I think more of how a grand piano can resonate when lots of keys are pressed down simultaneously and try to achieve a similar effect with a fast, continuous vibration of the strings on the guitar, like on ‘Florescence’.”
Ploug has already recorded a duet record with longtime collaborator Mark Turner using this guitar, and is organizing solo concert tours for next year.
For collectors the record is also being released on limited edition 180g vinyl – if interested, please inquire.
“Danish guitarist Mikkel Ploug is on his way into the champions league of contemporary jazz. His guitar playing is among the most stylish in the genre.” – Alex Schmitz, Jazz Podium (Germany)
“An original voice with something to say…” – Bud Kopmann – All About Jazz (US)
“Masterclass – The danish guitarist Mikkel Ploug is on the way into to the champions league of contemporary jazz” – Alex Schmitz – Jazzpodium (DE)
“Mikkel Ploug’s compositions are gorgeous. “Chords” [another Ploug composition] leaves me breathless.” – RVAJazz (US)
“Music this free and also this beautiful is a rare gem and it just keeps getting better with every listen” – The Province (CA)
“stunning ambience” – All About Jazz (US)
”unique work by this European trio” – Will Layman US national public radio, Popmatters/Jazztoday (US)
“Magnificent modernism” – Politiken (DK)
”musical medicin” – Dagsavisen (NO)
“deeply forceful” – All About Jazz (US)
“…great originality and elegance.”- Downtown Music Gallery, (US)
“Equilibrium is a largely successful and highly unusual collaboration” – Tim Clark – Luna Kafe
“….tyngdlösa tillstand av vackra, mjuka rörelse” – Johan Scherwin – Lira SE
“As time has passed, Ploug’s melodic gift has become clearer” – Jakob Bakgaard – All About Jazz (US)
“Harmoniehof” … further illuminates his tightly knit band.” – Mark F Turner – All About Jazz (US)
Aside from their very real talent and a defined sound, this group is also interesting in being an unselfconscious meeting of contemporary European and American jazz musicians which, outside the perilous world of touring soloists and pick-up bands, is a pretty rare commodity in jazz – Cormac Larkin – National Irish Tribune (IE)
“Guitarist Mikkel Ploug’s star has been ascending—not only in his native Denmark, but also in various overlapping international jazz circles.” – Elliott Simon – All About Jazz (US)
“Mikkel Ploug has been slowly, but surely, building a reputation for himself, and deservedly so. His live performances speak for themselves – Jerry D’Souza – All About Jazz (US)
“As time has passed, Ploug’s melodic gift has become clearer” – Jakob Bakgaard All About Jazz (US)
”Mikkel Ploug var (…) absolut stimulerende og en (ung) mand, man skal regne med, der bade indeholdte en saregen, melodisk dybde og et stort kryptisk og solistisk pulserende hjerte”- Jakob Ostergaard Nielsen – Gaffa (DK)
”Plougs musik er… sardeles personlig i hans helt naturligt melodiske kompositione” – Jorgen Siegumfeldt – Jazzspecial (DK)
“One of Europes most talented young jazz musicians…. “ – Emma Power – Evening Echo (IE)
”Mikkel Ploug er naste skud pa stammen af store jazzguitarister”- New Note Jazzfestival (DK)
“Ploug also impresses with melodies that do not become clichéd” – Elliott Simon – All About Jazz (US)
“Et nyt guitar talent stormer frem med en indtagende udgivelse som rygstod” – Cim Meyer – Jazzspecial (DK)
“Moden og interessant pladedebut fra den unge danske guitarist … pa egne pramisser – skaber Ploug og co. en musik, der udfordrer og forfrisker ved sine komplekse koder, sin energi og sin svavende melodiske fornemmelse” – Christian Munch Hansen – Information (DK)
“Gruppen fortjener pladeselskabets kvalitetsstempel og omvendt er en plade som denne med til at konsolidere Fresh Sound New Talent’s ry.” – Jakob Bakgaard – Geiger (DK)
“… men samtidig bidrager Ploug her med noget nyt og andet og trader gedigent i karakter med sine dristige og originale kompositioner, der i hvert fald far den lysende, danske jazzeng til at smaskalve og endnu en gang invitere til host, plov og plojning.” – Jakob Ostergaard Nielsen – Jazzspecial (DK)
“A highly individual sound… A thoroughly enjoyable affair.” Concerto Magazine
“”Ploug is part of a generation of guitarists who absorbed as much from Radiohead as they did from Bill Frisell, so while there is all the openness and adventure of an improviser with his own distinctive language, it is informed by a more rugged, indie-rock sensibility, driven forward by Carpio’s subtle, ever-changing grooves.” ???? The Irish Times
“In all the band’s music there is a refreshing lack of interest in showing off technique with the focus resolutely on making good music, with simplicity or complexity neither here nor there. It’s a really lovely listen.” The Jazz Breakfast
“Recorded last year in intimate circumstances at Black Tornado Studios in Copenhagen, the location lending its name to the album title, the material is largely Ploug tunes, easily digestible in the main, at their best when the tidiness of the writing gives way to a sprawling spilling out beyond the bridge, a Nordic Americana the flavor.” Marlbank
“The music is deserving of the widest possible audience.” Bebop Spoken Here
“Appeals to a wider audience which will give them the greater exposure and recognition that they deserve.” Sandy Brown Jazz Reviews
“Guitarist Ploug’s trio session has a talkative style that’s plenty charismatic… rich textures and sharp melodicism keep the ear riveted throughout… occasional flourishes of folk-rock are a nice touch.” Bird Is The Worm
“A Danish guitarist with a sound partly reminiscent of Mark Ribot, his country-blues-ish twang is written all over this likeable, long-standing trio recording of his originals.” Jazz Times
“The trio sounds as natural in the studio as on the live stage.” Medien-Info
”A highly individual sound… the maximum economy executed without any note gluttony… A thoroughly enjoyable affair.” Glicka
“Everything flows and as a result of a decade of existence of the trio is perfectly interlocked. Ploug has been one of the favorites of guitar nerds and certain magazines, now he should also be perceived beyond.” Leipziger Volkszeitung
“Definitely worth listening to for people who think they have heard everything.” Musik Reviews
” Presents the fun, commonality and connection in groove of the three musicians who have toured extensively as a unit the last decade on jazz stages worldwide.” Rheinmain Magazine
“Quiet, prudent and careful, very harmonious and relaxed… much elegance is on broadcast… independent and original.” Musik An Sich
”A unique album.” Nachrichten
“It’s rare to hear a trio where the acoustic bass pulsates with such warmth, drums play so unpretentiously and refined yet at the same time with such strong rhythm, and guitar plays with such grace.” Saarbrücker Zeitung
”Music full of inspiration and self-confidence.” Sol (DE)
”An emotional trip.” HiFi & Records
“Vibrant, interesting music.” Jazz NYT Blog (DK)
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