Probably it's best for jazz writers to paraphrase press releases, but sometimes the wording is too good to tamper with. For instance: "The Splendor is a jazz quartet with antennae out, claws in, and a tireless interest in all the small details of the music that transform each concert into its own universe." It's a marvelous description of this Swedish group and its one-of-a-kind soundscape: the music is joyful, inventive, and above all, boldly beautiful.
The Splendor's second release, Delphian Palace, was recorded in Sweden in a small house by the sea, and the peace and freedom of this setting infuses the album's atmosphere. The instrumentation gives a sense of what's afoot: there's the traditional sax, piano, bass, and drums, but also glockenspiel, omnichord, electronics, synthesizer, and melodica. The group uses these more unconventional instruments to accent their quartet, but they also include several songs that veer toward pure electronic improv, highlighting their ability to move comfortably inside and outside of tradition.
Gems include "The Follower," an achingly pretty ballad that starts off with electronic crunching, gradually folding in Fabian Kallerdahl's stately, sparkling piano, as well as deeply sonorous bass lines by Josef Kallerdahl and subtle brushwork by drummer Lars Källfelt. Then bandleader Lisen Rylander Löve's sax states the melody, a lyrical waterfall full of gentle longing. The song takes its time, meandering into a gentle flowering, lovely and graceful as a floating cherry blossom. "Circles" is another captivating tune, with a melody so lithe and elegant, it sounds like birds in flight. Löve reaches a fine emotional place in this song, displaying a soulful timbre that's pure delight. "A Piece" is a spacious song full of gentle nuances, including fleeting dissonances and electronic lacework, and "Pomada" has a wonderfully upbeat rhythm, with inspired stickwork by Källfelt and a fantastic group improv during Löve's solo. And "Still" is particularly pleasing, with a gorgeously spare rhythm section and lingering notes from Löve that are reminiscent of Jimmy Giuffre
's long-lost daughter, both in sound and spirit, and yet her voice is uniquely her own. There's something so thoughtful and gracious about her phrasing; she certainly can blow with great strength and she even shreds a few chords, but more often her style is deliciously low-key. She is always content to take her time, allowing each note and phrase to expand into their full beauty.
On Delphian Palace, the Splendor takes the classic jazz quartet format and makes it their own, interspersing the music with intelligent, playful touches of technology. But what sets this group apart is their spirit: there's a tender purpose here, an expressive freedom that welcomes joy. Indeed, their claws are in and their antennae are out, and the resulting music is world-class jazz that's both fresh and exciting.
Track Listing: A Piece; The Follower; Pomada; Low; Hoppets Röst; Circles; Fortune; Still; Metropol; The Palace.