Swedish guitarist Goran Klinghagen offers a very creative jazz outing on his album Na’s the Time
for the Phono Suecia label. I assume the title alludes to the famous Charlie Parker blues, but bop is one of the few jazz styles that really doesn’t too heavily inform this album. Klinghagen reevaluates fusion, mid-60s Miles Davis, and Ornette Coleman, melding these and other influences into a multifarious patchwork. Several trends evident in jazz today, such as the ECM sound, Frisell-like country-jazz, and world music are also discernible on this album. A fine guitarist (John Mclaughlin , Pat Metheney, and even rockers like Adrian Belew bubble to the surface when he plays) he sacrifices much of his solo space to the group effort.
At times Klinghagen’s group resembles early Weather Report. Composition and improvisation often blur into one another throughout Na’s the Time. The instrumentation alone, however, makes this album unique. Ten musicians contribute to this album including a cadre of string players. Plenty of jazz albums have used strings to back up a soloist or add heartache on top of standard jazz instruments, but on this album the strings are actually paramount to the arrangements. At times they back the lead instruments and at other times they lead the ensemble while hinting strongly at modern classical music ala Kronos Quartet. Klinghagen does not tax the reserve of instrumental talent, however, he uses the musicians as a painter might use a pallet of color. Every instrument plays its part in the arrangement to complement another instrument or add variety to a theme.
Choir and strings form accompaniment on "Surinam-nam," probably the strongest cut on the album. Similar to Flora Purim on Light as a Feather, the flute and voice carry the head. Trumpeter Tomasz Stanko takes the first solo, playing a little bit like Freddie Hubbard. Truly a beautiful head and but one of several songs which recall the early fusion era. Miles’ second classic quintet is intimated on some cuts as well. "Simma Lungnt" in particular recalls the Miles band circa Filles de Kilimanjaro sans electric instruments.
Other highlights of the album include "Hackan," where violinist Peter Olofsson improvises over a Bill Frisell-like accompaniment. He evokes many past violin greats during his solo from Stephan Grapelli to Jean-Luc Ponty. On "Milesology" singer Lina Nyberg improvises rhythmically in a voice that actually carries some of the siren-like qualities more often found in folk or world singers such as Lorenna McKennet.
Though the performances lean towards minimalist arrangements, a few songs, "Milesology" for instance, utilize a denser ensemble sound. Most of the time, however, Klinghagen emphasizes one instrument or an effective combo from within the ten musicians and is even content to allow a soloist to "stroll" without his accompaniment. Often the lead instruments switch off, solo at the same time, or hit unison passages. "Galven" is probably the most representative and unique piece on the album. Many of the eccentric elements that give the album its character can be found on this piece. Beautiful Kronos Quartet-like string passages, Klinghagen’s guitar doing it’s best impression of a Fender Rhodes, ambiguous tonal centers ala miles’ second quintet, Ornette Colemanesque strolling of the lead instrument and moody solos from flute and bass.
Na’s the Time capitalizes on many current trends in jazz but also has a thoroughly unique character. At times mellow in an ECM sort of way, usually catchy, and occasionally rocking I hope this album indicates some of the trends in European jazz right now. Contemporary creative music at it’s best.
Personnel: Lynda Nyber-vocal, Tomasz Stanko-trumpet, Lennart Aberg-soprano saxophone/ flute, Goran Klinghagen-guitar, Palle Danielsson-double bass, Terje Sundby-percussion, Anders Kjellberg-drums, Peter Olofsson-violin, Hendrik Frendin-viola, Patrik Harrysson-cello