How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Swedish saxophonist Fredrik Nordström (b. 1974) has been a player garnering much attention over the last few years. As his discography reaches double digits, his sound has consolidated and concentrated into a recognizable tenor approach. Blueis his fifth disc for Moserobie Music and first recording with piano legend Bobo Stenson.
All the compositions heard here were written by Nordström, but he gives deference to his playing partners and to other jazz legends. The opening track begins in a typically plaintive Stenson style, the pianist touches the keys with a reflective immediacy that draws the listener to adopt his timbre right away. Nordström’s saxophone falls into line, but then, nearly seven minutes into the track the two musicians change direction lifting up the tempo and spirit of the piece, which reveals another side of Stenson’s playing and the possibilities of this quartet.
This ‘two sides of the same coin’ approach is used throughout the recording. The restlessness of great jazz musicians is one explanation. Another may be Nordström’s writing is for group interaction, one that requires dedicated attention and subtly. He favors strict attention in his playing too. While he dedicates “The Big Sir” to Charles Lloyd, one can also hear the influence of Pharoah Sanders and (of course) John Coltrane. His breathy sound on “Way No” is soon infused with the aforementioned jazz spirits. Like Sanders, Nordström plays with a thoughtful intensity. Even his quiet notes burn. The muscular “Blue’s Blues” slinks in on the cymbal scrapings of Jon Fält, propelled by Mattias Welin’s pulse and the slow burning blues wrenched from Stenson and Nordström. The disquiet is quite palpably felt, and to great effect.
The breadth of this session is revealed in the differences between the ECM-like “Pampas,” with a patented Stenson sound opening over Welin playing his best Ron Carter imitation, and the freer “Bubbler,” where the band abandons time and structure. In all contexts, Nordström’s saxophone playing impresses. He can phrase his thoughts quietly and with great aplomb. That confidence is best displayed on “Late Sunday Flight Home,” with his solo opening that gives way to a post bop workout. Even though it is the shortest track on the disc (4:32), it might be the best way to sum up this recording. The band simply gels in support of first Nordström’s tenor, then his soprano saxophone. Together, they make a very joyful noise.
Track Listing: Allena; Blue's Blues; Way No; Late Sunday Flight Home; Pampas; Anna Elisabeth Christina; Bubbler; The Big Sir; Conquesta.
Personnel: Fredrik Nordstrom: tenor and soprano saxophone; Bobo Stenson: piano; Mattias Welin: bass; Jon Falt: drums.