Do you have Blue Zone envy? You know the places where people live the longest and happiest lives on the planet. They seem to get more physical activity then we do, eat better, love their communities and politicians. Politicians? I know. They even make some of the best modern jazz. Case in point the Norwegian quartet Cortex. It includes trumpeter Thomas Johansson (Friends & Neighbors, Paal Nilssen-Love Large Unit), saxophonist Kristoffer Berre Alberts (Saka, Snik, Starlite Motel), bassist Ola Høyer (Akøde) and drummer Gard Nilssen, who simultaneously released the 3-CD Gard Nilssen's Acoustic Unity Live In Europe (Clean Feed, 2017).
Avant-Garde Party Music is the quartet's fifth release and it follows last year's critical success Live In New York (Clean Feed. 2016). Keeping with its title, the music is a celebration, a soirée, and a jamboree. The obvious connect-the-dots here is to Ornette Coleman's early quartet with Don Cherry. The music also evokes the energy of Charlie Parker's collaborations with Dizzy Gillespie, back in the old post-war American Blue Zone days. It starts with the vitality of Nilssen's drumming. His muscular attack on "(if you were) Mac Davis" ignites Alberts' tenor to blow Peter Brötzmann-like notes into the vortex of the piece before the music jump-switches to locomotive rocker. The party Cortex throws has nothing though to do with mayhem. The compositions, all by Johansson, are exacting and precise. "Grinder" opens with a good-natured theme before popping the cork of energy music where both saxophone and trumpet excise jazz demons. Same modus operandi for (of course ) "Chaos." The insistence of the music yields to an orderly disorder, things disentangle only to be combed out in the end. To be a party band the quartet is mandated to bring the happiness. Indeed they do. Blue zone bohemians.
Track Listing: Grinder; Chaos; Waltz; (if You Where) Mac Davis; Disturbance; Obverse/Reverse; Perception; Off Course.
Personnel: Thomas Johansson: trumpet; Kristoffer Berre Alberts: saxophones; Ola Høyer: bass; Gard Nilssen: drums.
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