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The bottom end is a big presence on Bruno Råberg's Ascensio, fitting for a bassist-led quartet... a solid, emphatic heartbeat for the rest of the band to contend with.
Bassist Bruno Råberg, the Swedish-born Berklee educator, incorporated a foundation of Scandinavian folk tunes in his previous Orbis outing, Presence ; as he does here. Shifting meters, unusual time signatures, a muscular rhythmic pulse behind the front line horns, combined with a drummer (Marcello Pelitteri) who divides the spaces with the snap and pop of emphatic punctuations. Add to this the ineffable "Scandinavian tinge," and Ascensio has a sound that seems familiar and foreign at the same time.
Råberg's bass voice is insistent, an ever-looming presence for the hornsPhil Grenadier on trumpet and Alan Chase on soprano and alto saxto weave their sinuous lines around. The piano-less quartet is more often associated with the free jazz arena, but Ascensio is a Råberg-composed effort. His tunes are a bit off-kilter (to the American ear) but highly accessible, with flowing melodies and a structure that allows lots of room for front line soloing. Both horn men are stellar in their team and individual efforts therein. Chase has a relaxed approach, full of cool logic; and Grenadier can at times sound slightly anguished, a scratchy Miles Davis '58 Milestones tone, stretching his lines then turning around and biting them off.
The title track opens with a gravelly bowed bass, with the horns supplying a jerky rhythm before the roll into some clean unison blowing leading into two truly entrancing, back-to-back horn solos. The highlight in a highlight-filled outing.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.