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“Behind the Chords” is at times dark and mysterious. Swedish keyboard whiz Sten Sandell offers some enticing, yet at times bizarre excursions into his private world. This project is broken into 4 segments or Acts. Sandell’s composition titled “Under The Stone” and “After The Deserts” (Act 1) features subtle pulsating electronic keyboard work and some unusual vocals. Sandell’s vocalizations on this track rekindle thoughts of Captain Beefheart’s deep garbled baritone voice although Sandell is liable to render high pitch wails on occasion. The driving single note drone provides the lone sense of rhythm. Here, Sandell sounds as though he’s conducting a seance or communicating with the spiritual world. Original yet at times baffling! On “Behind The Chords I” (Act II) Sandell’s giant block chords and improvisation on the Piano disclose his true talents. His apparent classical training combined with free-improvisational statements pose a new challenge. Perhaps this is Free-Classical music? In any event Sandell’s meticulous phrasing and left hand-right hand coordination is beguiling. Sandell’s solo Piano work is altogether striking and somewhat transcendental in character. Thoughts of Dave Brubeck performing solo free-jazz Piano entered this writer’s imagination. Despite occasional pyrotechnics, Sandell utilizes space and gives the listener a feeling of vast openness. On “Between The Pipes” (Act III) Sandell’s use of electronics parallel certain aspects of European Electronic Industrial music. “Under The Stone III” (Act IV) commences with one tremendously loud chord on his Acoustic Piano which appears to be electronically treated. The piece continues in that manner and the overall feeling is that of a dark, lonely place. Very harrowing and gloomy. Quite interesting, yet not for the faint of heart.
Not being familiar with Sandell’s past puts this writer at somewhat of a disadvantage; however, according to the press kit he has performed as a solo artist and with notables of Europe’s avant-garde scene. “Behind The Chords” is a musical event. Sandell is in the driver’s seat while the listener goes along for the ride. The road may be bumpy at times, but the experience is one that you will more than likely never forget.
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.