Winner of the 2002 Jazz in Sweden Award and receiving a four-star Downbeat Magazine review for his quintet recording On Purpose
, Fredrik Nordstrom is a young saxophonist/composer/bandleader who is clearly attracting some justified critical attention. His brief Canadian tour in the summer of 2003 proved him a fearlessly uncompromising performer with his feet planted firmly in post-Ornette territory but with a penchant for new music and even a little rock. His progressive vision, however, is all jazz and now, with Dog Out
, he leaves the leader's chair behind for a cooperative quartet that further explores this vision with a quartet that features Alberto Pinton on various reeds, Mattias Welin on bass and Jon Falt on drums.
With a tenor sound that is larger than life, Nordstrom's roots may be in Dexter Gordon and Charlie Parker, but there is little of the mainstream in his playing or writing, which takes up six of the eleven tracks (the balance are written by Pinton). However, while some of his roots may also be in free music, there is plenty of structure; Dog Out is about loose improvisation, but always within a framework.
Nordstrom's writing shifts between strong rhythmic grooves and free-time ensemble passages. "Cold Talk" begins with a strong solo from Welin; Nordstrom and Pinton then introduce the theme before the rhythm section is introduced, playing loosely with a slow, bluesy groove. Falt appears to have listened to Joey Baron, as he demonstrates a similar ability to maintain a pulse with as much implied as is actually played.
Pinton's "Dog's Right" shifts between tight unison lines and broader harmonies; Nordstrom and Pinton solo with complete abandon, occasionally supporting each others' improvisations with long bass tones. Nordstrom's "Piece of Change" shows his roots in contemporary classical music, with a dark, moody piece that creates a lush texture from the two reeds and arco bass. "The Freezer" begins as a more overtly free piece, with Nordstrom in duet with Falt; the theme demonstrates Nordstrom's penchant for counterpoint as he and Pinton wind in and around each other over a light but insistent pulse from Falt and Welin.
Dog Out is a fine recording that will appeal to fans of modern jazz who prefer to see freedom balanced with some structure. While the group affords every opportunity for free expression, there is always a roadmap, a charted course that provides either a rhythmic or harmonic foundation to the proceedings. And while the entire group is worth watching, special attention is due to Nordstrom, who is rapidly emerging as one of the bright new lights on the European scene.
Personnel: Fredrik Nordstrom (tenor and alto saxophones), Alberto Pinton (baritone and C-melody saxophones, clarinet, contrabass clarinet), Mattias Welin (bass), Jon Falt (drums)