On the sixth release from reedman Martin Kuchen's mid-sized Angles ensemble, all the winning traits so evident on previous outings are still present and correct: heart wrenching melodies, huge foot-tapping riffs, sweeping chorales and adventurous raw soloing, not least by the leader himself. Many of the same top notch players remain on board, notably trombonist Mats Äleklint Quartet, vibraphonist Mattias Ståhl, bassist Johan Berthling and drummer Andreas Werliin, affirming a veritable spiders web of connections with other well-regarded bands on the Scandinavian scene such as All Included, Fire!, Atomic and Paal Nilssen-Love's Large Unit.
In this outfit, Küchen favors a strong beat which keeps matters accessible and helps get the message across. As always with Küchen there is a political/humanist subtext to the music, which means that the closest precursor in terms of both content and intent remains Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra. The reedman' arrangements make the most of the crew on hand, and the often loosely polyphonic voicings conjure a bigger sound than even the 9-piece incarnation would suggest, as exultant vamps burst into dense free for alls before continuing on their irrepressible way.
Küchen launches "Equality & Death (Mothers, Fathers, Where Are Ye?)" with anguished overblown tenor saxophone shrieks, until an unstoppable martial cadence kicks in, embellished by a series of overlapping figures. It makes a tremendous scene setter. Although each of the numbers ascends to similar plateaus of majestic widescreen grooves, they achieve that destination by different routes. A call and response for the trio of brass at the outset of "Pacemaker" coheres into another slamming riff. While on "Ådror" annunciatory fanfares open out for first Goran Kajfes' sprightly off center cornet solo, followed by a tumbling vibes cascade from Ståhl, only to switch up a gear to a funky Afrobeat.
On the title cut a mournful theme falls away to leave a poignantly lyrical duet for Alexander Zethson's piano and Kajfes' cornet, and later Eirik Hegdal's gruff baritone over a free pulse. In a mirror image of the opener, Küchen's world weary tenor introduces "Flee Thy House (In Breslau)" before a triumphant chorus tinged with melancholy. Thereafter Äleklint blusters and brays forcefully, giving way to Magnus Broo's darting waspish trumpet and Werliin's churning drums. Although such cameos for the talented cast pepper the program, the emphasis never moves far from the group sound. At 44 minutes this powerful, moving studio set doesn't outstay its welcome.
Equality & Death (Mothers, Fathers, Where Are Ye?); Ådror; Pacemaker; Disappeared Behind The Sun; Love, Flee Thy House (In Breslau).
Alexander Zethson: piano; Mattias Ståhl: vibraphone; Magnus Broo: trumpet; Goran Kajfes: cornet; Mats Äleklint: trombone; Eirik Hegdal: baritone saxophone; Johan Berthling: double bass; Andreas Werliin: drums; Martin Küchen: alto saxophones, tenor saxophones.
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