February 16, 2018
Air and Light and Time and Space
Hispid Records HISPI 007/ PNL Records PNL 035
Disappeared Behind the Sun
Clean Feed CF405 CD
Neither fish nor fowl, the small big band is actually more like a crossbred dog, which combines the best qualities of each strain. For instance a nonet such as the Scandinavian bands featured here, offers the power of larger ensemble with the flexibility of a combo. Formulated individually, these rip-roaring sagas take disparate paths to achieve a similar level of animation.
Representing all three Scandinavian countries, Air and Light and Time and Space, is a throwback to Jazz’s fabled jam session and resulted from an Oslo party-gig hosted by local drummers Paal Nilssen-Love and Ståle Liavik Solberg. Other participants in these extended Jazz-at-the-Philharmonic-styled jams are fellow Norwegian trumpeter Thomas Johansson, Danish saxophonists Lotte Anker and Julie Kjær; plus Swedish trumpeters Goran Kajfes and Emil Strandberg, saxophonist Anna Högberg and pianist Sten Sandell. Members of various bands, all have some association with Nilssen-Love.
Established to propel leader, Swedish saxophonist Martin Küchen’s sincere if somewhat strident and sometimes misguided political ideals at least in its track titles, Angles 9 is an irregularly constituted ensemble. When it does get together, as on Disappeared Behind the Sun, it provides an object lesson in the capability of Swedish musicians. Here they include brass players Goran Kajfes, Magnus Broo and Mats Äleklint; saxophonist Eirik Hegdal, pianist Alexander Zethson, vibist Mattias Ståhl, bassist Johan Berthling and drummer Andreas Werliin. Testifying to Scandinavia’s small size or EU cooperation, many have also worked with Nilssen-Love.
With the Pan-Scan Ensemble’s first track mostly vamping, characterized by capillary extensions, reed riffs and some spectacular percussion displays, the CD showpiece is the more-than-30-minute “Time and Space”, which is opened up for all manner of sonic development. Introduced by a drum roll, small instrument resonation and piano plinking, the first sequence builds with crackling brass echoes and strangled reed blurts in chromatic leaps, uncovering a theme characterized by insistent semi-swing that lurks on the periphery of the performance even when not expressed upfront. Backed by clave rhythms from the percussion, there’s space for an airy solo from Sandell, Kjær’s floating flute timbres in a contrapuntal challenge with accelerating trumpet trills, and a polyphonic place-marking tutti crescendo that mid-way through gives way to an impassioned split tone, vibration-popping attack from Anker on tenor saxophone. Discordant reed riffing with thematic angles in the second sequence soon give way to discordant keyboard comping and percussion slaps as further backdrop to trumpet challenges that soar with muted hummingbird-like grace or brash triplets. As trumpet and cornet grace notes climb upwards and reed harmonies open up, doubled cymbal shatters and drum top smashes herald a subsequent crescendo, until a conclusive piano clink signals the finale and climax of this intermittently swinging sequence.
More solo-oriented, the other CD allows for more space for individual expression. Particular stand-outs are Ståhl, the coolness of his metal bars translating into icicle-sharp injections or icing-like topping to moist concoctions involving layers of horns and brass; and Äleklint, whose authoritative textures extend past tone suturing with the other horns into distinctive valve slide and mouthpiece explorations mixing gutbucket raunch with open emotion. That aspect is explored on the final “Love, Flee Thy House (In Breslau)”, with its title heralding Second World War massacres. A defiant demonstration of a capella ‘bone power, with hardened cross tones leaping from pedal-point to the stratospheric, Äleklint’s sound complements the slow-moving baritone sax introduction and presages a banshee-pitched screech from Broo that soars over and mocks the civility of the folksy theme.
Elsewhere Ståhl’s easy-going reverberations relax and exploit the swing undercurrent in “Ådror”. It begins with the massed horns in an Aylerian-“Ascension” blow-out and is most distinctive in the way brassy Cootie Williams-like variables from Broo or Kajfes fully express the linear theme. Additionally the chromatic clarity of the vibes coupled with Werliin’s drums beats helps regularize the swells and fades of the reeds and brass so that swaying swing is audible as well as whistling cacophony.
Cadenced motion is expressed by both of these small big bands where foot tapping tempos are linked to sophisticated sound pictures.
Track Listing: Air: 1. Air and Light 2. Time and Space
Personnel: Air: Thomas Johansson, Goran Kajfes, Emil Strandberg (trumpet); Lotte Anker (soprano, alto and tenor saxophones); Anna Högberg (alto saxophone); Julie Kjær (alto saxophone and flute); Sten Sandell (piano); Paal Nilssen-Love, Ståle Liavik Solberg (drums and percussion)
Track Listing: Disappeared: 1. Equality & Death (Mothers, Fathers, Where Are Ye?) 2. Ådror 3. Pacemaker 4. Disappeared Behind The Sun 5. Love, Flee Thy House (In Breslau)
Personnel: Disappeared: Goran Kajfes (cornet); Magnus Broo (trumpet); Mats Äleklint (trombone); Martin Küchen (alto, tenor saxophones); Eirik Hegdal (baritone saxophone); Alexander Zethson (piano); Mattias Ståhl (vibraphone); Johan Berthling (bass); Andreas Werliin (drums)