In the presence of pianist Jon Balke and bassist Jonas Westergaard, Norwegian saxophonist Torben Snekkestad releases his first album, and not of the kind that you would expect from a debut. The reason is clear : you rarely have debut albums that bring a voice so fully formed, and with a musical vision that is so focused and unique. Snekkestad's approach is minimalistic, zen-like, and abstract at the same time. The listening is not easy, because of the unexpected turns, the avoidance of anything familiar, yet the fluency of the sounds, combined with the concentrated focus on sound variation and spontaneous interaction, make this a very rewarding album. The playing is quiet and soft by default, sensitive to the level of fragility, until you get sudden explosions of intensity, creating emotional release rather than shock effects. It is too gentle for shock indeed, even integrating strong boppish elements in the short "Zobob". And that is another great quality of the album: its restraint balance. On the title piece, it is only after a solo clarinet exploration of some four minutes, the piano suddenly joins for a few chords to end the track. On "EP Flower", he gives some three minutes of hypnotic circular breathing over Balke's muted plucked strings, suddenly lifting the intensity of the album, only to move back to their subdued poetic musical artistry on "Icon". Some musicians spew notes in vast quantities and loud volume, as if there's an abundance of them, Snekkestad and band prefer less quantity, more quality and low volume intensity, as if notes were a sparse resource that need to be cherished and valued one by one. Avant-garde of the mature kind.
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