Per Henrik Wallin/Johnny Dyani/Erik Dahlback: Burning in Stockholm (2004)
These three men are well-known in free improvisation contexts. The two Swedes, pianist Per Henrik Wallin and drummer Erik Dahlback, form two thirds of a trio whose bassist surely couldn't have minded the amazing and now departed South African bassist filling his role on this 1981 date. The music might be called free improvisation, but there's nothing weirdly dark or uncontrolledor tame or dull or incoherent.
Wallin plays a few bars expertly in mainstream Twentieth Century concert idiom, and suddenly he's not continuing but has turned back to produce a series of variations on it, one then another. He builds up until "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" comes in, with Dyani's bass walking, after about ten minutes. There's some improvisation in more conventional free jazz style till the arrival, via a Dollar Brand sort of churchy theme, into something Swedish which may, like the churchy theme, have a name. There's an approximation of Thelonious Monk oom-pah, then yet another tune, and it's back to the churchy one again.
Warmed up, the pianist passes through a gospel equivalent of boogie-woogie, does some McCoy Tyner variation back again with the churchy business, and then some Southern Baptist neo-stride piano. A bit of waltz-time comes next, and neo-boogie, and back to church with the bass bouncing. Dahlback's input is incalculable.
Leonard Bernstein's "Amer-ica" pops up for a couple of repetitions, then segues into something African, which gives a very wry sound to the immediately subsequent appearance of "Star Spangled Banner." Some sort of comment is intended, which the reappearance of "Swing Low" underlines.
Having started the whole improvisation intellectually, Wallin then finishes without ever touching crudity but demonstrating a capacity for the plain, straightforward, and earthy. This music is unpretentious and intelligent, apparently exercising a wish to play some pretty simple music, and play in major keys, expressing no less profundity than when playing more sophisticated things. Wallin, an all-round remarkably capable pianist, can play it all equally well. A very healthy experience.
Track Listing: Burning in Stockholm (49:00)
Personnel: Per Henrik Wallin (piano), Johnny Dyani(bass), Erik Dahlback (drums)