Maybe it’s time someone called Nordic jazz the West Coast Cool of Europe. The Cool school favored focused lyricism over angular melodies, softly padding swing over propulsive drive, and feathery dynamics over brash volume—all qualities that some of the more overtly “Nordic” jazz shares, while it injects a healthy dose of space and echo to create its signature expansive ambience. Drummer Terje Sundby quite explicitly puts himself in this line, his group Ynde using the same instrumentation as Arlid Andersen’s Masqualero: trumpet, saxophone, guitar, bass and drums. The mix suggests many directions: weightless harmonic drift, fusion-tinged grooves, introspective soloing and flashes of percussive drive.
Sundby follows that '80s quintet in writing style as well, mixing highly lyrical themes, intricately scored as well as improvised passages, and a contrast of light textures and thick bass lines. “Gula Rummet,” the most ambitious piece here, uses all these devices in its ten minutes, suggesting everything from “In a Silent Way’s” spacey melody and propulsive groove music to avant-garde electronics and free jazz. Guitarist Göran Klinghagen’s solo sounds more like some vintage synthesizer than a guitar, and trumpet and saxophone stage a combustive dual towards the piece’s conclusion. It’s the best piece on the album, showing Sundby to be an adventurous small group composer capable of constructing engaging narratives.
The other highlight is “Jo-berg I,” which blends Sundby’s poetic leanings with an unwavering sense of a beat. It contains a pointillistic improv passage, then slips into a pitter-patter groove, as an intricate surging by Sundby, a driving comp from Klinghagen, and a twisting dialogue of staccato phrases from trumpeter Staffan Svensson, and saxophonist Tomas Jonsson builds a tense, almost cerebral energy.
The piece’s sequel does not fare as well though, with its Bacharach-like melody, catchy as it is, drifting dangerously close to sounding like the theme song from some '70s white-bread comedy. Svensson’s taut trumpet solo redeems the tune, as he mines the hook for deeper content. “Bittida,” with its acoustic guitar bed and rather drippy melody, also wades into the treacherous waters of trite sentiment. It is almost too self-consciously “beautiful.”
But Ynde does feature focused, exciting playing, shows Sundby to have a wealth of compositional ideas, and all of it is recorded by engineer Åke Linton in crystalline form, reminiscent of ECM’s sound, each cymbal strike, snare hit, bass swoop and breathy phrase captured with bright clarity.
By following Masqualero’s lead, Sundby is examining under-explored territory where rhythmic vitality and spacious, brittle melody can co-exist. But Masqualero succeeded because their mix was so fluid and seamless. While not 100% successful, Ynde has all the elements, and it promises an intriguing future.
Visit Imogena Records and Terje Sundby on the web.