The bottom end is a big presence on Bruno Råberg's Ascensio, fitting for a bassist-led quartet... a solid, emphatic heartbeat for the rest of the band to contend with.
Bassist Bruno Råberg, the Swedish-born Berklee educator, incorporated a foundation of Scandinavian folk tunes in his previous Orbis outing, Presence ; as he does here. Shifting meters, unusual time signatures, a muscular rhythmic pulse behind the front line horns, combined with a drummer (Marcello Pelitteri) who divides the spaces with the snap and pop of emphatic punctuations. Add to this the ineffable "Scandinavian tinge," and Ascensio has a sound that seems familiar and foreign at the same time.
Råberg's bass voice is insistent, an ever-looming presence for the hornsPhil Grenadier on trumpet and Alan Chase on soprano and alto saxto weave their sinuous lines around. The piano-less quartet is more often associated with the free jazz arena, but Ascensio is a Råberg-composed effort. His tunes are a bit off-kilter (to the American ear) but highly accessible, with flowing melodies and a structure that allows lots of room for front line soloing. Both horn men are stellar in their team and individual efforts therein. Chase has a relaxed approach, full of cool logic; and Grenadier can at times sound slightly anguished, a scratchy Miles Davis '58 Milestones tone, stretching his lines then turning around and biting them off.
The title track opens with a gravelly bowed bass, with the horns supplying a jerky rhythm before the roll into some clean unison blowing leading into two truly entrancing, back-to-back horn solos. The highlight in a highlight-filled outing.