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Friday, June 8, 2018

Joakim Milder, Fredrik Ljungkvist, Pär-Ola Landin & Christopher Cantillo - Trädet (El Dingo Records, 2018) ****½

By Eyal Hareuveni

Reeds players Joakim Milder and Fredrik Ljungkvist are amongst the most internationally well-known and creative Swedish musicians. Milder is known from his collaborations with American bass player Red Mitchell, fellow-countryman pianist Bobo Stenson, and Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stańko and pianist Marcin Wasilewski. Ljungkvist is known from the Swedish-Norwegian quintet Atomic, his Yun-Kan groups and his collaborations with Chicagoan Ken Vandermark.

But these colorful personalities have not collaborated on a project of their own until young drummer Christopher Cantillo - known from the Mattias Ståhl Trio and the Parti & Minut trio, as well as behind alternative pop phenomenon Anna von Hausswolff - suggested to form a new collective quartet. Double bass player Pär-Ola Landin complements this quartet.

The quartet debut album, Trädet (The Trees in Swedish), offers music that is deeply rooted in the Swedish melodic and lyrical jazz tradition, but it branches out to many new, fresh terrains. Milder and Ljungkvist are expressive and attentive improvisers and their interplay is simply masterful - poetic, emotional and nuanced, always focused on serving the music and not their technical wisdom. Landin and Cantillo solidify this empathic communication with their sensitive and versatile rhythmic work.

Concise pieces like “Lupin” sound as a clever deconstruction of Carla Bley's compositional ideas, including the eccentric sense of humor, and reconstruction of these ideas as their own. Both Milder and Ljungkvist are well-versed with her music. Milder has played with Paul Bley and Ljungkvist focused on her work on And Now The Queen - A Tribute To Carla Bley (Lilao, 2016, with pianist Mattias Risberg, including a re-working of the classic “Ida Lupino”). “Schism” and the open, swinging “Ivan's on the Phone” deepen the open, conversational spirit of this album, as all four musicians let the music breath, grow, touch and inspire . The touching, chamber-jazz “Köpenhamn” and “Segall” - with Ljungkvist on the clarinet- stress even more the organic manner that Milder and Ljungkvist complements each other’s ideas, almost telepathically. The thoughtful exploration of the engaging theme of “Things Are”, concludes this beautiful gem and demands more, much more from this great quartet.