Fredrik Ljungkvist & Yun Kan 5: Badaling
Badaling is the sophomore release of the excellent Swedish quintet Yun Kan 5. The group is led by saxophonist/clarinetist Fredrik Ljungkvist, better known as one of the key composers in the Swedish/Norwegian quintet Atomic, and for his association with saxophonist Ken Vandermark in various incarnations of Vandermark's Territory Bands.
The quintet also features Jon Fält, the drummer with the Bobo Stenson Trio, tuba player Per Åke Holmlander, who is also a member in Ken Vandermark's Territory Band (as well as other forward thinking large ensembles such as the Peter Brötzmann Tentet and Barry Guy Orchestra), pianist and zither player Klas Nevrin, and bassist Mattias Welin. Three years ago, the band released its highly acclaimed debut Yun Kan 12345 (Caprice), and has since toured extensively.
As in his compositions for Yun Kan 12345 and for Atomic, Ljungkvist's work here plays with both the inside and the outside of free-bop. He incorporates elements of new music, and arranges the seven new compositions in a manner that sounds wide open, leaving a lot of space for each individual musician to sculpt the unique colors of the ensemble. The opening title track is a fine example of Ljunkgvist's composing skills. He draws the angular, clear theme on the tenor saxophone, and then in turn the piano and the tuba, the bass and the piano, the saxophone and the piano, and the piano and the drums, follow with a series of thematic reflections, until Ljungkvist takes the lead again with an elegant and nuanced solo, before leaving Holmander for a searching passage that slowly finds its way back to the theme.
The second composition, the eerie "Folkhemmet", dedicated to Swedish film maker Jan Troell and written together with Nevrin, is more concise. Holmander begins with a brooding solo that establishes the framework for Ljungkvist and Nevrin to improvise upon. "Oslo" is reminiscent of Ljungkvist's compositions for Atomic with its intense and flowing interplay between all the members of the quintet. Holmander shines again, with a subversive and ironic low-end recalibration of Ljungkvist. "Kun Lun" begins with similar interplay but leaves more space for individual solos by the articulate Wellin, the always inventive Holmander, and Nevrin inside his piano.
"Ray Battle", dedicated to Swedish master drummer Raymond Strid, a former collaborator of Ljungkvist's, is an open-structured improvisation that features Fält as the leader. Fält explores his percussive vocabulary, while the others contribute often strikingly odd sounds, especially Ljungkvist, with an intense free saxophone solo. "Altro?" features Nevrin leading Fält and Wellin into a stormy opening before Ljungkvist and Holmander join in for a more relaxed elaboration of the theme. The closing composition, "Kopi Luwak," named after the expensive Indonesian coffee, is a cinematic piece that unfolds slowly, with short introductions by Ljungkvist on the bass clarinet duetting with Fält, and Nevrin duetting with Wellin, before the quintet rolls into a tight swinging interplay that highlights the unusual sonic combinations available to the lineup.
A varied and well executed set of thoughtful compositions played by a mature and ambitious quintet. Warmly recommended.
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Tracks: Badaling; Folkhemmet; Oslo; Kun Lun; Ray Battle; Altro?; Kopi Luwak.
Personnel: Fredrik Ljungkvist: tenor saxophone, Bb clarinet, bass clarinet; Klas Nevrin: piano, zither; Mattias Wellin: bass; Jon Fält: drums; Per Åke Holmlander: tuba.