Martin Hoper: The Bride
There is a solemnity throughout bassist Martin Höper's The Bride. When he presents a blues, it enhances the despair. When he presents a waltz, it adds to the grace. And when the tone grows celebratory, the receding soberness induces even wider smiles. Imbuing fun music with stately mannerisms is what gives The Bride an emotional complexity that brings such satisfying and successful results.
The opening track has a sedate, almost bluesy persona. Linus Lindblom's saxophone has a melancholy sway, and Hoper's methodical steps up and down the register give the impression of pacing nervously about the room. Drums give the faint impression of a clock ticking down to moment of finality; piano trails just behind and drives the point home.
There is a sadness to Hoper's melodies, even when the music is designed to get the foot tapping. In part, this can be attributed to the sound prevalent in the Scandinavian jazz scene from where Hoper's quartet originates, but only so much can be traced back to geography; ultimately, its the heart of the musicians at the heart of the music. The music's sadness is channeled through the saxophone of Linus Lindblom, who achieves a tone that is light at its heart, but like a feather gently fluttering to the ground, there is no mistaking the effect gravity is having upon it. So it is with Lindblom's horn: no matter how buoyant he makes his tone, ultimately the heavier emotions will have their say. This is best displayed on the second track, "Olmed," which has Lindblom out front with a plaintive voicing of the melody on a composition that has the rest of the quartet in a spritely frame of mind. It creates a contradiction of emotion, and depending on which facet of the quartet the listener focuses most on at a particular time, the end result is a single composition with multiple faces.
Despite the album's complexity, it has a resounding cohesion. It is easy to imagine that all the songs were written in a single session of furious creativity. Songs on an album can fit together in any number of ways. The Bride is an album where the songs are presented as chapters of a book. There is a story tale arch to the sound.
After the sedate blues of the opener, "The Boys In My Hood," and the plaintive yet incongruous wide grin of "Olmed," the title track sees Jonah Ostholm's piano elicit the elegance of a waltz, and the odd metered combo of bass and drums adds a subdued good cheer. This is followed by a gentle ballad, with bright piano lines and calming brushwork contrasting with cloudy sky saxophone and dour bass. Depending on your state of mind, the track may sound either deliciously languid or bordering on bleak.
The album's second half opens with more life. On "Cilantro," the quartet adopts a peppier cadence and hints at the pop-infused jazz of Mathias Eick's Skala (ECM, 2011). This is followed by the only composition to act as a (modern) straight-ahead jazz tune, in the American sense of that phrase. It has a decent amount of fire, but nothing that's gonna burn the speakers, and the rhythm moves right along without taking any odd steps along the way. The album closes, first, with a wishing-upon-a-star ballad. Soft and reflective, "Eriksberg" is a quiet tune with limitless hope, and it acts as the perfect lead-in to the final track, "Calibanos," a lighthearted tune that flies effortlessly on by.
It's an excellent finale to an album that may leave you wanting even more.
Tracks: The Boys In My Hood; Olmed; The Bride; South 3rd Saudade; Cilantro; Muttileinen; Eriksberg; Calibanos.
Personnel: Linus Lindblom: saxophone; Jonas Ostholm: piano; Chris Montgomery: drums; Martin Hoper: bass.