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Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Atomic - Happy New Ears (Jazzland Recordings, 2006) ****

This is the fourth CD by the Swedish/Norwegian band Atomic, with the Swedes Fredrik Ljungkvist on clarinet/sax and Magnus Broo on trumpet, and with the Norwegians Håvard Wiik on piano, Ingebrigt Håker-Flaten on bass, and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums. And you're right about Scandinavians, they have their own approach, ... and guts and vision. Whether it's this band, or musicians like Nils Petter-Molvaer or Arve Henriksen or Eyvind Aarset or Bugge Wesseltoft, they're not afraid of adventure, regardless of the direction they're taking (fusion ambient electronic industrial acid ...). Atomic also goes on an adventure trip, but then within the idiom of the "classic" jazz, and that makes this band so exceptional. Without adding elements from outside jazz, they recreate it with its own means, purely acoustic, without mixing style elements, and yet this music has the signature of Atomic : carefully composed, with improvisation, but don't be fooled : the most "free"-sounding pieces are often composed, the sudden spontaneous interplay by the band is too good for that. They change the so-called "telephatic" interplay of the improvisation into a compositional element, ... and therefore the music sounds carefully crafted yet very expressive. This makes the music accessible and still modern. On top of that, they master all the sub-genres of jazz, from bop, over latin, cooljazz, freejazz to post-bop, and this combined with an almost perfect mastering of their instruments : a real joy to listen to. Atomic keeps close to the essence of jazz: music with soul, with recognizable melodies, with lots of improvisation, strong rhythms, emotional power, yet sounding like they're playing in your living room. And the sound is wholly theirs. Great! This album, and the other three are more than worth checking out.