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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Scorch Trio with Mars Williams - Made in Norway (Rune Grammophone, 2012) ****

By Paul Acquaro

The album is spinning on my turntable but the font is so small and hidden in the lushly decorated label that I've given up on figuring out if I'm on side A listening to 'Sloo' or side C listening to 'Enberg'. I'm starting to think that this obfuscation is by design, to let the fantastic music coming from the grooves speak for itself. Unaware of when one song begins and the other ends, or even which side of the two records I'm hearing, I'm happily resigned to just being flotsam in this tide of sound.

There is something really appealing in the presentation of the white vinyl that slides so gracefully from the sumptuous gatefold cover. Adorned with an abstract painting, vaugely floral, and marked only in a tiny sans-serif font, the "Scorch Trio with Mars Williams, Made in Norway" is a pleasure for both the eyes and ears. Recorded live at Cafe Mono in Oslo and at the Nattjazz festival in Bergen in May 2011, this double album is possibly the best recording I've heard of Raoul Bjorkenheim's Scorch Trio.

If you are familiar with the trio's aggressive and textural music, you'll be satisfied with the proceedings, however, there is an added dimension here with the inclusion of Williams' saxophone. Along with the intense squalls and storms are moments of calm and contemplation. The contrasts are exciting and the inclusion of Williams is a masterstroke. His playing is tough and sensible, ready for the tempest that guitarist Bjorkenheim, bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and drummer Frank Rosaly can release. He blends into the group seamlessly (or perhaps a better phrase is 'stitched in', with all the seams gloriously exposed) and brings additional dynamics to play.

The Scorch Trio has been working together for several years and have released several powerful recordings on Rune Grammophone, though original percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love was replaced by Rosaly on 2010's Meleza. In this latest configuration, duets between Bjorkenheim and Williams are inspired as they blend their voices and goad each other on, always just a little bit further. Rosaly's drumming is vibrant and varied as he pulls and pushes the music in different directions. Haker-Flaten's bass is brimming with life, generating enormous waves of sound and subtly supporting the gentler passages.

The limited release of 500 copies on LP makes this a trickier recording to find, but one worth seeking out. The joy of seeing and feeling the music is an experience in itself. For someone like myself, slowly being numbed by the instant convenience of the mp3, the gatefold cover and flip of the record makes the experience all that more tactile and engaging - though let me lodge my complaint that there isn't a mp3 download included.

Regardless, good clean rocking free jazz fun.

© stef


Paul said...

Nice! Looking forward to your thoughts on the album.

Nadia said...

Really looking forward on your thoughts! I´m going to try get the album myself

Ed Pettersen said...

I just ordered this LP(as I only listen to LP's anyways....) but I must say that every album I've purchased based on free jazz blog reviews have been excellent. Very reliable, consistent insights. Kudos!

Unknown said...

I am listening to the record (side C) as I type this. I picked it up at my favourite used record store in my home town. I jumped at the chance to get it because I had seen the Scorch Trio in Montreal at La Salla Rossa several year ago (when Nilssen-Love was still the drummer). I agree that Williams adds an additional texture. I am enjoying this recording immensely!