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Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Swedes Are Coming

By Eyal Hareuveni

Just as we entering the intensive season of Nordic jazz festivals, and even shorter Scandinavian summer season, here are some hot and breezy releases from the finest of Sweden musicians, (with some help from their Nordic neighbors).

Nacka Forum - We are The World (Moserobie, 2016) *****

Over the years the Nacka Forum quartet became a kind of Nordic supergroup. The quartet was founded in 1999 as group that covered pieces by Ornette Coleman, Art Ensemble of Chicago and Sun Ra, and now featuring reeds player Jonas Kullhammar, known as a leader of his own quartet and as member of Mats Gustafsson Fire! Orchestra, trumpeter Goran Kajfeš, leader of his own Subtropic Arkestra and member of sax player Martin Küchen Angels, bass player Johan Berthling who plays in the Fire! Trio, Fire! Orchestra, Tape, Sten Sandell trio, Angels and Danish drummer (who replaced original drummer Kjell Nordeson in 2012), known from his collaborative work with Sam Rivers and Yusef Lateef.  

On their fifth album Nacka Forum sounds much larger than a quartet. Maybe because besides Berthling, all play several instruments - Kullhammar on soprano, tenor, bass and slide saxes as wekk as the double bell braithphone sax, clarinet and flute, Kajfeš, plays the slide trumpet, cornet and EVI, and Osgood plays the piano and octopad. The quartet plays wise and energetic jazz, well-versed in the legacy of fiery free jazz of the sixties, but declares loud and clear that Nacka Forum has its own original, fresh sound.

The cover of South African bass player Johnny dyani “Magwaza” is very emotional and follows faithfully the original song-line theme. The African vein continues on Kullhammar call-and-answer, ironic “Do the Nacka forum”, where he can demonstrate his playing on the braithphone sax and on Osgood soulful ballad “#5”.  His tribute to the recently departed drummer Jerome Cooper, “Thinking about J.C,” enables the quartet to explode, dance on a tough, driving groove and fly with with spacey keyboards sounds. Berthling festive “Chogolisa” concludes this celebration.  

Don’t miss the tons of fun and excitement of this great album.

Parti & Minut - Dålig Sikt Och Regn (El Dingo Records, 2015) ****

Four years has passed since the debut release of the trio Parti & Minut, Från klart till halvklart , (From Sunny to Semi-cloudy), until the trio reconvened to record its sequel, Dålig sikt och regn, (Poor Visibility and Rain). This Stockholm-based trio features trumpeter John Norin, who plays with the ska/reggae band Club Killers and accompanies popular singers Amanda Jensen and Miss Li, tuba player Per-Åke Holmlander, known from his collaborations with Peter Brötzmann, Barry Guy, Mats Gustafsson and Ken Vandermark, and drummer Christopher Cantillo, who plays vibes' player Mattias Ståhl's group and other modern jazz outfits.

The trio's debut album offered a unique mix of free jazz, children music, and general mischief and its follow-up simply refines the formula. Holmlander shines in such an intimate, playful trio that enables him enough space to deliver his clever, eccentric ideas, always spiced with healthy doses of humor. Cantillo adds a hyperactive touch, pushes and drives the pieces into many side alleys with his stream of inventive ideas while Norin tries as best as he can to keep it all as one functioning unit.

The covers highlight the trio open yet emphatic interplay. Sam Rivers' “Dazzle” is charged with fierce energy and Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre “African Walk” dances with a hard-swinging pulse. Sonny Rollins' “John S” shines with abrupt, acrobatic changes, balanced with a reserved  lyrical tone and Arthur Blythe's “For Fats/Mamie Lee” is played is if the trio was shot into the stratosphere in supersonic speed.

Filip Augustson - Minsta Gemensamma Nämnaren (Found You Recordings, 2016) ***½

Double bass player Filip Augustson began to write the material for Minsta Gemensamma Nämnaren, the sophomore album of his trio, featuring violinist Eva Lindal and drummer Christopher Cantillo, immediately after the trio's debut album Viva Black was released last year. Auguston sees Lindal and Cantillo as his real soul-mates, despite their different personas and looks. Auguston thinks of himself as the nerd who looks like a recently graduated pastor, Cantillo as the epitome of Stockholm hispster and Lindal as a representative of the Swedish women who carry the arts on their shoulder. The cover that blends their faces into one unity and the title - The Lowest Common Denominator - solved this issue.

Auguston composed eight pieces, all relate to thoughts and events of his life, and all emphasize the genre-blind, versatile and resourceful language of the trio, a language that flows naturally and feels at home with modern jazz, contemporary music or folk music. The lyrical “Ögat” (The Eye) has its roots in folk music but transforms into a playful, contemporary piece. The timbral investigations of “Brommaplan Mitt På Dan” (Brommaplan in the middle of the day) reflect the seminal influence of the work of Charles Ives on Auguston. The East-European, dance-like “Den Gamla Världen” stresses the trio highly rhythmic interplay. The peaceful, beautiful  “Turtle Dance” actually imagines such a slow dance somewhere in the shiny Pacific and only “Vinterid” (Wintertime) offers a touch of typical dark Nordic melancholy.

Mathias Landæus - From The Piano (Moserobie, 2016) ****

Pianist Mathias Landæus set two simple rules for his solo album. First, all sound must be derived from his 1919 Steinway grand piano (model O), given to him by his hip grandmother. Second, anything goes as far as processing, shattering, or manipulating the sounds in any way. Landæus, known as a leader of his own trio and from his collaborations with sax player Martin Küchen, thought about this project for a few years ago and the recognition that he has to do it, and do it alone, struck him stronger and stronger. Once he rented a studio, “a creative flow took over and new worlds opened up,” letting his curiosity and instinct lead him.

Landæus turns the piano into a huge playground, where he invents, explores, and sculpts new sounds and beats, “Just Like Our Children”, as the opening, playful piece suggests. The piano may sound lie a kind of instrument that blends minimalist, repetitive percussive sounds with hypnotic, techno beat as on “Yellow Cake” and “The Male Isolation Pattern”; it may color a touching, abstract song as on “Signe 4ever”; struggle with conflicting urges on “Pedagogen” until it settles on infectious beat that brings to mind Norwegian Pianist Bugge Wesseltoft work with New conception of Jazz, or suggest an atmospheric, prog drone on “Angels on Our Car”. Landæus adds that he was guided by his need to deal with existential questions. “It takes a lot, being human. If you can’t escape it you have to make something out of it”. Something that sound fascinating.

Andreas Backer & Raymond Strid - Voice & Percussion (Creative Sources, 2015) ****

Norwegian vocal artist Andreas Backer and Swedish master drummer Raymond Strid began playing together in 2009, as a duo and in other ad-hoc constellations, but recorded their debut album only in 2014. Strid is one of the leading Nordic free improvisers and has worked with Barry Guy, Ken Vandermark, Marilyn Crispell, and Mats Gustafsson. Backer released before an album with the Swedish-Norwegian quartet Hot Four, Eye of the Moose, and a solo album, Voice Improvisations (both on Creative Sources, 2014 and 2015).

Backer and Strid have developed a unique and highly personal language that fit their concise free improvisations. Both know how to sketch intriguing stories, full of detail and playful invention that stress their constant need to explore sounds, dynamics and textures. Their interplay is intuitive and flows organically. Backer sings-speaks in wordless, invented languages - as “Text is Overrated”, the title of one the pieces, totally possessed in his intriguing stories, even the most abstract ones as “A-E-Å-O”. Strid ornaments the stories with clever percussive sounds, emphasizing the dramatic elements and colors Backer's voice with an impressive, rich spectrum of sounds. Most of the time both agree on the course of the stories, but even when they argue, as on “Bang Bang!”, they manage to charge it with a coherent dramatic narrative.


Anonymous said...

Nacka Forum
'... bass player Johan Berthling who plays in the Fire! Trio, Fire! Orchestra, Tape, Sten Sandell trio, Angels and Danish drummer (who replaced original drummer Kjell Nordeson in 2012),...'

you left out the name of the drummer...

allan said...

Parti & Minut
On their first CD the trumpet player is listed as Johan Jonsson and on this newest CD Johan Norin -- are they the same person?

El Dingo Records said...

Hi allan! Johan Norin changed his last name, it is the same person.

allan said...

Thanks El Dingo.

Apart from Amazon (very expensive!) is there anywhere in the UK I can buy the physical CD's please?