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MMO-Ensemble: Any Day Now

Mark Sullivan By

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MMO-Ensemble is the realization of Norwegian saxophonist/composer Martin Myhre Olsen's vision of a new 21st Century large improvising ensemble. The twelve-piece group (the largest version of the ensemble to date) includes horns, strings, a vocalist, and of course a rhythm section. The Ensemble's third project, Any Day Now is based upon texts by James Baldwin, Emily Dickinson and e.e. Cummings—which provide some of the structure of the music, as well as forming part of the collage (both spoken and sung).

"Any Day Now part I" introduces the ensemble, and many of the techniques that will be employed throughout. A massed slow rubato opens it, followed by a pitched declamation of James Baldwin's poem, the backbone of the piece. Then there's a minimal repetitive rhythm with free solos on top, which leads into a riff employing the strings and vocals. Finally, a rhythmic riff, reminiscent of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir," provides an exciting accompaniment for a saxophone solo. "Why?" begins with quiet, atmospheric strings, followed by a recitation from double bassist Christian Meaas Svendsen. Siril Malmedal Hauge's vocal is initially accompanied only by pianist Ayumi Tanaka: joined by the full ensemble, then returning to voice and piano at the end.

The whole is carried along by a fine balance between composition and improvisation, and between ensemble and soloist. While the group has only twelve members, the personnel allows for emphasis to shift from brass to strings to rhythm section, with the poetry as connective tissue. Other highlights include "Take Me (Tøyen Blues)" with its hypnotic, bluesy riff that builds to a huge, exciting climax (while also leaving space for Tanaka's abstract piano solo and Simon Olderskog Albertsen's drum solo); "aNd Part II. (Philming)," a feature for trombonist Øyvind Brække; and "Lonely Place," which opens with Svendsen's arco double bass introduction (joined by Hauge's vocal). "Any Day Now Part II" closes the circle with a reprise of the slow rubato that began the album. After a sprightly violin solo, a bright riff concludes the piece with a bit of an upbeat feel.

This is a live recording, and the audience at Victoria Nasjonal Jazzscene in Oslo, Norway responds enthusiastically throughout—with good reason. Olsen's composition is rich with possibilities, while the ensemble responds with enthusiasm and a rare chemistry. Any Day Now is a significant entry in the annals of contemporary large ensemble jazz, and a joy to hear. Fans of experimental jazz should not miss it.

Track Listing: Any Day Now Part I.; Why?; Don't You; Take Me (Tøyen Blues); In Your Arms; aNd Part I. (If I Were A Panther); aNd Part II. (Philming); Carry Me; (Out) Of This...; Lonely Place; Any Day Now Part II.

Personnel: Martin Myhre Olsen: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone; André Roligheten: tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Øyvind Brække: trombone; Erik Kimestad Pedersen: trumpet; Siril Malmedal Hauge: vocals; Karl Bjorå: guitar; Ayumi Tanaka: piano; Håkon Aase: violin; Adrian Løseth Waade: violin; Kaja Fjellberg Pettersen: cello; Christian Meaas Svendsen: double bass, voice; Simon Olderskog Albertsen: drums, vibraphone.

Title: Any Day Now | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Øra Fonogram

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