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Does the world really need another Scandinavian group from the Clean Feed stable? Well in the case of Festen, the answer is a resounding yes! Further confounding the by now tired Nordic tone stereotype, and even diverging from the outfits influenced by the 1960s avant-garde, this quartet comprising four young Swedes based in Stockholm, propounds a free jazz thoroughly of the moment, forgoing time and tune on a collectively navigated journey.
All four live on their wits in an exhibition of nervy interplay. Korean-born Swedish-raised pianist Lisa Ullen is perhaps the band's key asset. When she plays things happen. She energizes the ensembles with her emphatic Cecil Taylor inspired commentary and jagged comping. Not that the rest of the group are any slouches. Clarinetist Isak Hedtjärn uses the extremes of his reeds to express himself, barely fingering a legitimate note during the entire 43-minute program.
During the lengthy opening "In The Kitchen," he moves from quavering as if in the grip of unspeakable emotion, to snorting rambunctious bass clarinet by the end. Similarly wide ranging, bassist Elsa Bergman veers from full-toned pizzicato to spidery bowed sibilance in the same cut, while on drums Erik Carlsson rumbles and taps to maintain momentum without recourse to bombast.
It's an egalitarian date in that roles aren't fixed, and placement of sound is governed by close listening rather than any hierarchy. Each track is episodic, subject to sudden change. Spiky exchanges at the outset of "2015 Forever" lead to rampaging piano and skittering clarinet. While Hedtjärn holds a dog whistle sustain, Ullen spins out jazzier lines with a hint of melody. But the most uncompromising moments come on the final "it never gets better than this." where violent crashing piano depth charges contrast with stratospheric clarinet. It's a good way to end an unpredictable but exhilarating session.
Track Listing: In The Kitchen; 2015 Forever; "det blir aldrig bättre än så här"; "it never gets better than this".
Personnel: Isak Hedtjärn: reeds; Lisa Ullén: piano; Elsa Bergman: double bass; Erik Carlsson: drums.
I love jazz because of Elmer Bernstein's score for the 1957 American film noir Sweet Smell of Success, which I first saw as a teenager in the '70s. As a playwright/screenwriter, I write to music and I'm always looking for ways to incorporate it into my work; the most recent example being Bob Crosby and the Bobcats Big Noise From Winnetka, which became the signature theme for my last stage play The Gift of the Gab
I love jazz because of Elmer Bernstein's score for the 1957 American film noir Sweet Smell of Success, which I first saw as a teenager in the '70s. As a playwright/screenwriter, I write to music and I'm always looking for ways to incorporate it into my work; the most recent example being Bob Crosby and the Bobcats Big Noise From Winnetka, which became the signature theme for my last stage play The Gift of the Gab. My late great pa-in-law--the actor Keith Michell--wins the contest hands down however, as he co-starred in the 1962 movie All Night Long rubbing shoulders with Dave Brubeck, Keith Christie, Bert Courtley, John Dankworth, Ray Dempsey, Allan Ganley, Tubby Hayes, Charles Mingus, Barry Morgan, Kenny Napper, Colin Purbrook and John Scott! Wish I could have been a fly on the wall of that soundstage!
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