Plunge is a young Swedish trio that has been together for three years, exploring a combination of composed music and completely free improvisation. On their self-titled d'but, saxophonist Andreas Andersson, double-bassist Mattias Hjorth and drummer Peter Nilsson have chosen to expose their more extemporaneous side with a programme of nine purely spontaneous compositions. The term spontaneous composition is used with intent, because while Plunge may improvise freely, there are plenty of structural reference points that they create to give the pieces form. Less reckless abandon and more considered interaction, Plunge 's nine pieces traverse a breadth of stylistic territory, yet remain for the most part lyrical and in search of common ground where the three musicians can meet.
The pieces seem to move effortlessly through rhythmic and melodic constructs; "Exhibit A" begins with a more insistent rhythmic figure, but nothing ever lasts for long with these pieces, as the players respond to each others' suggestions. "Can-Can" is looser, with Hjorth and Nilsson flitting around the time but never quite settling into it. "Credo" is another loose-time piece, with Andersson's melodic ideas flowing effortlessly over Hjorth's contrapuntal bass lines, while "Bommen" is a darker work, with dramatic cymbal swells and light drum rolls creating a textural backdrop for Andersson's more constructed soprano theme and Hjorth's ascending bass figure.
Something about the way Andersson, Hjorth and Nilsson interact brings to mind the freer pieces on Dave Holland's classic Conference of the Birds. As free as things get, there is always the sense that the trio, like Holland, Braxton, Rivers and Altschul before them, is moving towards something. Sadly, completely free improvisation all too often comes across as a group of players more interested in their own concerns than those of the collective, but Plunge understands that no one player's interests should dominate. Plunge is truly a collective concept, with each member keenly intent on responding to the musical ideas around them. Nowhere is this more clear than on the album's closing track, "Now What?," where Andersson sets the initial tone for Hjorth and Nilsson, who ultimately find their way into a clear harmonic and rhythmic figure that spurs Andersson to deliver his most tuneful work of the set.
Surprisingly accessible, even at their most extreme, the members of Plunge are clearly concerned with creating something out of nothing. And while many free players look for the sharp edges and the acute angles, Plunge instead looks for the rounded corners and the smoother sides. For those who think that free playing is too extreme, too "out there," Plunge argues otherwise, that it is possible to play totally unstructured music that still maintains a sense of order and development.
Personnel: Andreas Andersson (baritone and soprano saxophones), Mattias Hjorth (double-bass), Peter Nilsson (drums)