|Fredrik Ljungkvist (sax) Magnus Broo (tpt), and Håvard Wiik (key) of Atomic|
By Eric Stern
Atomic is a band which features players from Norway and Sweden. New York was the first stop on their short tour for their newest recording, Pet Variations. The recording is mostly made up of covers, including material from Carla Bley, Steve Lacy, Alexander von Schlippenbach and Jan Garbarek.
The show was sparsely attended. This is likely due to the fact that NuBlu’s website did not list the show in a timely manner, and there was little advance publicity. Despite this shortcoming, the show itself was terrific. The band members have clearly put a lot of thought into how they are presenting these songs. Each player seems to have carved out his own sonic space so that each instrument was uniquely showcased. During one song, for example, the bass-player Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and the drummer Hans Hulbækmo had a chance to do an extended duo during which the percussionist played a polyrhythmic pattern below the sound-space of his partner. This enabled listeners to get a sense of the interaction between the players without losing what each was bringing forth.
The band kept a somewhat slower pace than many of their free jazz contemporaries. The volume was never excessive. The result was to highlight the compositions. There were, of course, a few great solos, including one from the trumpeter Magnus Broo. There was still an edginess to the music despite its controlled pacing.
Håvard Wiik played an electric piano to good effect. The rest of the band were playing acoustic instruments, and I suspect that Wiik would have preferred a real piano. Fredrik Ljungkvist acted as leader by announcing the songs and providing some patter between songs. His sax- playing blended well with Broo’s contributions, and there were more than a few hot moments. Despite the fact that this was the first night of the U.S. tour, the band members were clearly comfortable together.
A note should be made regarding NuBlu 151, which is clearly making a bit more of an effort to present this music. Last week they were part of the Winter JazzFest, and later this week they will play host to Arts for Arts “Justice is Compassion” series. The club does have two major downsides, a lack of seating and no piano. Still, it is my hope that the club continues to book this type of music as NYC desperately needs new venues for its presentation.