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Monday, January 6, 2020

Fredrik Ljungkvist Trio - Atlantis (Moserobie, 2019) ****

The work of Swedish reeds master Fredrik Ljungkvist, known from the Swedish-Norwegian quintet Atomic, is criminally undocumented. His new album Atlantis is only the sixth album of his as a leader, over a career that spans about 25 years, but reflects faithfully Ljungkvist’s aesthetics. This new album swings - literally - between memories and homages to seminal jazz icons and mentors and fresh, bold yet always melodic and elegant ideas, performed beautifully. 

Atlantis was recorded during “one sunny day” in April 2019 in the legendary Atlantis studio in Stockholm. Ljungkvist dedicates this album to the memory of recently passed Swedish saxophone player Roland Keijser, his lifelong friend and mentor. Ljungkvist is accompanied by his trusty trio - double bass player Mattias Welin amd drummer Jon Fält who have played with him since 2002 and his larger groups Yun Kan 5 and Yun Kan 10. 

The title-piece offers Ljungkvist’s brand of swing, moving organically, between playful, rhythmic modules and asymmetric, open patterns, with a natural charismatic voice on the tenor sax. Thelonious Monk’s classic “Monk’s Dream”, with young pianist Max Agnas, is stripped and reconstructed rhythmically again and again by Ljungkvist and Agnas and the rhythm session of Welin and Fält, all flow with engaging energy. Ljungkvist’s own ballad “Rue Oberkampf” sounds as a natural expansion of the Monk-ish language. 

“Jag vet Inte“ (I Don’t Know in Swedish) is a beautiful and openly emotional, free-improvised duet of Ljungkvist on baritone sax and the operatic, wordless vocals of Sofia Jernberg, with subtle support of Welin and Fält. “Flykt” (Escape in Swedish), with Ljungkvist again on baritone sax and its hard-swinging spirit, sounds at first as paying respect to one of Sweden sax giant Lars Gullin but explodes later as a free jazz piece. The lone reading of Keijser’s fragile ballad “So-do-so-do-re” is one of emotional peaks of Atlantis. Ljungkvist concludes with another homage to another master, Bill Evans’ “Very Early”, with veteran pianist Göran Strandberg, known for his work with Red Mitchell, and himself on the clarinet. This piece succeeds sound untimely and fresh at once.

Who said that jazz is dead? It even smells great.

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