I had the honor of writing the liner notes for this fantastic album by one of my favorite bands, recorded live in Ljubljana, Slovenia on July 1, 2011. The band is Martin Küchen on alto sax, Alexander Zethson on piano, Eirik Hegdal on baritone and sopranino saxophones, Goran Kajfes on trumpet, Johan Berthling on double bass, Kjell Nordeson on drums, Mats Äleklint on trombone, Mattias Ståhl on vibes. Check out their other albums too.
Here are the liner notes :
“The music on this album is dedicated to creating a better world; a world without war and killing, without poverty and exploitation; a world where men of all governments realize the vital importance of life and strive to protect rather than destroy it. We hope to see a new society of enlightenment and wisdom where creative thought becomes the most dominant force in all people’s lives”, Charlie Haden writes in the liner notes to the debut album of the Liberation Music Orchestra in 1969.
And it could have been written for Angles, a band that draws from the same well, both politically and musically. In its two previous albums, as on this one, Angles has a clear message against war and violence, against the terror and horror in our Vietnams of today, now located in the Middle-East, tomorrow possibly – and unfortunately probably - elsewhere again.
The musical link is as strong, drawing from an even deeper well, a source of sounds evoking the collectively shared sadness and revolt of common people, building on traditions of village wedding and funeral bands, playing music that is the emanation of their sentiments, with phrases that bounce off cobbled streets and melodies that resonate in dusty market squares. The ancient folk traditions are palpable: you can hear the European fanfare or brass bands, mixed with Latin echoes in the soloing on “Afternoon/By Way Of Deception”, the long first track, or tribal African rhythms in the percussive parts, with wisps of Balkan brass. By analogy, listen back to the Liberation Music Orchestra, listen to the great compositions “Nkosi Sikelel’i Afrika”, “Song For Ché”, “Sandino” or “La Passionaria”.
The themes here are equally grand and elaborate, with melodies that touch you deep in your heart with a strong feeling of an indefinable truth, melodies that keep repeating in your brain, with the cinematic power of a Nino Rota soundtrack, tunes and sounds that all of us have deeply ingrained in our unconscious, the universal feelings that we all share, with rhythms that come from life itself, fast at times, full of drama, full of anger, or slow, to commemorate the ones who came before, equally dramatic, full of sadness, and with improvisations that articulate the distress but also the jubilation of the individuals in that community, glorious, spiraling, serpentine, like the trance-like intertwining phrases of reed instruments in Berber bands, the unpolished raw yet mesmerizing interplay of African wedding music. This is not jazz, but a synthesis of real authentic music throughout the ages and cultures, rendered all the more powerful because of its modern format and virtuosic playing.
The idea to make the Angles sextet into an octet was a good one, making the sound fuller, giving more volume, offering more opportunities for contrast and depth, and making the grand themes even more sweeping and majestic. This is music for everyone to join in.
It is not a surprise that the band’s third album is also the third live recording, since the closeness to an audience seems critical, as a sounding board, as a prerequisite like the bands in the street, it is their feelings that are evoked and expressed. It is all about the audience. This is not the music for abstractions, individual artistic expressions or for esoteric elitism, this is music that resonates with immediate effect, hopefully also with lasting effect, contrasting the joy and the sadness, the laments and outcries. Yet don’t be mistaken, the music is carefully crafted and orchestrated, including sudden and unexpected rhythm changes, subtle and sensitive calmer moments, high speed unison lines, that unravel and reconstitute, with soaring improvisations, but it is the overall sound, the combined power that is the real hero here. It is agitating, gripping, irresistible, enchanting, enthralling, hypnotic, spellbinding, compelling, inciting you to join in, to be swept away by the collective feelings and aspirations.
The idea of communal music is to express the sentiments of those present, to give a voice to collective emotions that are too complex to articulate, except by music, except by great music. Liberating music.
Available from Instant Jazz