New Sound 006 \\ Danish Future Jazz outfit Athletic Progression

25th March 2019

Have you heard Aarhus based act Athletic Progression? Jonas Cook (keys), Justo Gambula (bass) and Jonathan Jull Ludvigsenshoot (drums) come from a Jazz sensibility. Naturally for them, hip-hop and electronica lead the direction, evoking urban dusks and night time drives between fuzzy streetlights. 

Although the Danish band were yet to hear Yussef Kamaal when companions were made, Athletic Progression have come to discover London Jazz and been hugely inspired by the British scene. 

The three piece have just released their album ‘Dark Smoke’. Pensive, glooming and alluring, it features vocalist Minna Forouzandeh, a frequent collaborator throughout the album. To mark its arrival, we spoke to all three members of the band about the album and what’s cooking on the Danish soundscape. 

\\ Tell us about your journey towards ‘Dark Smoke’

Jonathan: The journey towards making ‘Dark Smoke’ was just us working with each other for the first time and trying to pull off a sound only heard through the speakers at home or your headphones. We’ve always wanted to make our acoustic, organic sounding music blend with the tight produced sound. We try to constantly – in a live setting – give the listener a moment of doubt as to whether what their hearing is a production being played through the speakers or the actual band. However then, of course, we’d be breaking that thought with a very ‘live sounding’ part, playing against that idea, so you’re constantly and discretely challenged as a listener. Also, from the get-go, we wanted to use our band as a platform for working with artists we all admire and love, having our name next to theirs, and to never be bound to the same soloist. That’s actually how we got to play with the guitar player on the album, Ole. At first we were just gonna feature him on a song but we ended up enjoying playing with him so much we just kept making music with him, until he without any decision making, ended up as a part of the band. 

Jonas: It’s definitely the beginning of an era. I remember the very first time we got together and jammed. I think we all immediately felt that the energy was special and felt that this was a special group of guys that connected on a higher level. Jonathan and Justo didn’t know each other, and though few words were spoken, we had an easy time communicating through the music. From that point on, the tracks for the album pretty much wrote themselves. As Jonathan said, we elevated our compositions and songwriting when we had an extra artist in the rehearsal room.

\\ What’s the concept behind the title of the record?

Jonathan: Back when we were writing the material, we weren’t thinking of it as a forthcoming release with all the material gathered on it. We were just making music in a very childlike pure form. We were only thinking in terms of making tracks with people we wanted to work with. Of course you always dream of making an album but that was very far fetched up until long after the material had been made, actually. So the album has conceptually meant very different things in different times. Today we think of it as the beginning of Athletic Progression and the time we worked with Ole – hence the front cover – which is a picture of him. You can almost say we see it as a sort of homage to Ole!

Jonas: One of the very first tracks we wrote and recorded was ‘Dark Smoke’. It kinda represents that whole time and era; Ole being a part of the band, working a lot with Minna and all of the other guys. Recently I’ve liked to think of us being, at the time, in a cloud of Dark Smoke. Now we’re finding our way out of the fog, having tuned in to each other as a trio and finding more of our own sound.  

Justo: I agree! I find it funny that the first thing we ever made became the vibe of the release. To me, smoke can really be beautiful when you put some colours to it, but sometimes it may turn dark and then something happens – believe me, things happened up in here!

\\ How did you creatively connect with Minna Forouzandeh?

Jonathan: We connected on a level where words almost weren’t needed. We’re a kind of band who like to just get together, play, and write the material in the practise room. We just jam out ideas and always know when we’ve got something worth working with. When we first worked with Minna, our sound kinda materialised cause you always adjust your sound to the solist if you have one. I didn’t know her until we first played together; we had barely exchanged words before we were playing together! Jonas knew her personally and invited her to come play with us. However, making music with her back then was the easiest – she just took the lead and we followed her. We were so blown away by how easy it was writing music with her, that we would probably have made tons more material with her, almost made her a part of the band probably, if she hadn’t moved to Copenhagen shortly after we started working together.

Jonas: I’d known Minna for a couple of years before Athletic Progression started playing, and the idea of bringing her into our universe made so much sense. It was really easy for the three of us to connect with her musically. It made it easy for us to work with her, because she almost always has an idea of what she wants to do over a beat. She’s not afraid to take the lead and tell you how she wants things done. We quickly adapted to that work-flow.

Justo: True! Minna is a phenomenal singer and a warm person. She really puts in work. She knows what she wants and makes you execute it the way she thought it, No bull shit; if she gets to read this I just wanna let her know that I wish her all the best. 

\\ You’re repping a new side of the Danish Jazz/Jazz-ish scene right now. Which Aarhus based artists are you inspired by, and who should we check out?

Jonathan: Bands such as I Just Came From The Moon; they are a very inspiring band with a beautiful sound, that challenges the definition of whether they’re a jazz band – sort of like us actually. They have some free elements and also some indie and rock influences that make a very interesting fusion of genres. The quirky minds of Bangin’ Bülows Nice Jazz Quartet has inspired me very much for a long time. I feel like their music is very underrated and actually deserves more attention. Some of the same people from that band also have a band called Abekejser, which are also very cool. Maria Dybbroe is a real interesting saxophonist who makes so many things happen in the free improv scene and she also writes beautiful compositions for her band Cactus, which includes great musicians. The group is kinda funny; it’s like a mirror almost; the band has one double basses, one alto saxophones and one drummer.

Jonas: Our friend Hans Solo. A beatmaker and DJ from the heart of Aarhus who is definitely worth checking out. He is also a part of the crew, Favourite Things; a collective of creative souls who run a monthly party in Aarhus that’s all about good vibes and great music. If you ever come to Aarhus make sure to check them out.

Justo: Adrian Christensen (Abekejser, BBNJQ) is a good friend of mine (and Yes! I do play faster than him). We have a funny love/hate relation. I love to spend time with him and talk about our various cranky bass lines. He’s really one of those people who makes your game STRONG! Josephin Bovién; she’s cute, met her some months ago and she’s got a tremendous drive. I admire the way she stays focused, even when things don’t go her way. She may be young to some but she manages herself in a very mature way and she’s not afraid to sacrifice for the better. She’s like a sister to me so don’t try to play around or nothing. 

Listen to Athletic Progression’s album Dark Smoke on Soundcloud

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