Translated from Swahili, Mwendo Dawa means “the way to a special goal.” With Time Sign
, Susanna Lindeborg’s Mwendo Dawa group is clearly charting a unique direction towards a very special goal all its own.
Lindeborg is a classically-trained pianist who switched over to improvised music in the 1970s, gradually incorporating electronic keyboards to supplement her strong acoustic approach. Synthesizers are used to supplement the essentially acoustic sound of Mwendo Dawa, although there are times, as in the introduction to “Twelve Times,” where the electronics completely dominate. Her approach is free, but it relies on clear construction, as completely free passages seem to magically coalesce into strong group unison lines.
Along with Lindeborg, Ove Johansson is the other composer for the group. His tenor playing is assertive, but not aggressive, more akin to Braxton than Shepp or Saunders. Like Lindeborg, Johansson uses electronics, in the form of EWI (electronic wind instrument) and computer, to introduce other-worldly textures to the group. Bassist Jimmi Roger Pedersen has a warm sound that solidly anchors the group along with drummer David Sundby, whose almost military precision keeps a sense of inner logic, even when Lindeborg and Johansson take off on free flights.
Lindeborg’s classical background seems more apparent in her writing; there is almost a new music feel to her compositions which, when superimposed over a clearly jazz rhythm section, creates an unusual texture that is hard to compare to anything else. “Mixed Series” is a clear example of this. Her melodies are angular, oblique, uncompromising; her piano style owes something to Thelonious Monk and Paul Bley. Johansson tends to create longer melodic clusters, as on “Techno 4 Four,” with a stronger nod to American avant jazz.
Mwendo Dawa's music is difficult, requiring many listens to comprehend. Time Sign is unflinching in its desire to break new ground and create new sonic textures. It's an album of uncompromising post bop and free jazz, with a new music slant that continues to assert Susanna Lindeborg and Ove Johansson as unique contributors to a style which may not appeal to the masses, but continues to reward the attentive with each subsequent listen.
Personnel: Susanna Lindeborg (piano, keyboards), Ove Johansson (tenor saxophone, EWI, computer), Jimmi Roger Pedersen (bass), David Sundby (drums)