Events from a momentous three-year musical period greatly influenced this album: in 1967 the death of John Coltrane
; the release, two years later, of In A Silent Way
(Columbia, 1969) by his former boss, trumpeter Miles Davis
; and the demise of rock icon Jimi Hendrix
The line-up is Max Schultz, one of Sweden's best guitarists, former Herbie Hancock
protégé Peter Johannesson (drums), the very gifted pianist Jacob Karlzon
, and bassist Dan Berglund
, formerly a mainstay of the internationally acclaimed Scandinavian trio e.s.t., forced to disband following the tragic death of leader, pianist Esbjorn Svensson
, in a scuba diving accident in 2008.
Memories of yesteryear are triggered right from the start with a lovely, dreamy version of Trane's "Naima," written for his first wife. Schultz contributes a finely constructed, understated solo, followed by some excellent lyrical work from Karlzon.
The pianist is the hero of the hour on Schultz's "The Letter." The song was very nearly overlooked and he improvised his lengthy and masterly intro at the last minute, with one eye on the studio clock because he had a plane to catch.
Berglund performs some fine, sensitive work on such diverse numbers as Björk's "Isobel" and Igor Stravinsky's "Firebird," the latter most likely owing its inclusion thanks to excerpts from it that were recorded by Trane's second wife, pianist Alice Coltrane
, on her Lord Of Lords
The influence of In A Silent Way
permeates all 11 numbers, largely as a result of Schultz, who owes a great deal to guitarist John McLaughlin
, heavily featured on Davis' album, which is often credited with giving birth to the term "fusion."
The quartet takes Hendrix's overblown "Third Stone From The Sun," featured on Are You Experienced?
(Polydor, 1967), cuts away all the psychedelic deadwood and turns it into a quite masterly cosmic meditation.
Trumpeter Peter Asplund
makes a guest appearance on "PJ's Five," his solo curiously more evocative of McLaughlin than Davis, of whom he is a great fan. Karlzon's playing is at its densest and most driving on this one. The controlled chaotic ending is very '70s, perhaps a little too much so, a criticism that can be leveled at some of the other numbers here. But all in all, this is a fine album worthy of international attention.
Informed by the past it may be, but it lives very much in the present.