Click here to [close]

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Mette Rasmussen, Alan Silva, Ståle Liavik Solberg - Free Electric Band (ForTune, 2016) ***

By Lee Rice Epstein

Free Electric Band captures an improvised meeting of Danish saxophonist Mette Rasmussen, Oslo drummer Ståle Liavik Solberg, and iconic American bassist Alan Silva on synthesizer. The meeting was recorded in summer of 2014 in Wrocław and is, at least to my ears, moderately successful. At the very least, it’s been the start of an ongoing group (now listed as Alan Silva’s Free Electric Band) that performed a few times this year, including this year’s Kongsberg Jazz Festival with Marshall Allen.

I’ll say at the outset, Silva’s synthesizer work is not my favorite, so take everything here with a grain of salt. I didn’t feel he adequately meshed with Rasmussen and Solberg’s more fluid styles. Rasmussen’s been praised on the blog for her recent albums with drummer Chris Corsano, All the Ghosts At Once and Star-Spangled Voltage. And on Free Electric Band, working with Solberg, again she delivers another impressive sax-drums collaboration. Silva mostly adds color on the outskirts or margins of a more captivating duo. That may be an unfair description of what the players and audience felt in the moment, but it’s certainly the case with the recording.

And yet, there are aspects of the group and the recording that continue to draw me back to it. It’s curious that Rasmussen and Solberg, both of whom use various preparations and effects, are paired with Silva’s synth, an electronic instrument well suited to unconventional performances. And there are moments when (not because of any specific reference or motif, but because of the clashing of organic and electronic sounds being made) I was reminded of Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time, which made me wonder about what might happen if the group was expanded by additional players, specifically electric bass and a guitar or two. It would certainly change the dynamics of the group dramatically, so I do think I’m unfairly asking for a different group entirely. But there’s a kind of safety in small configurations, and for all the delights, from time to time there’s a lack of danger.