When does this guy breathe? This might be the question going through your mind while you listen to "Signal This," the fifth track on Side A of trumpeter Thomas Johansson's solo recording Home Alone. The brief, three minute performance is, at first glance, more about physicality than music making. On the surface, a solo trumpet performance is corporeal. This is just the nature of the trumpet, perhaps the most difficult instrument to master because each flub or flaw in execution is amplified. Maybe that's why this circular breathing piece is so hypnotizing. Your ears anticipate the car crash, one that never comes. Johansson sprays notes like automatic gun fire, but with the precision of a surgeon.
Solo trumpet is fashionable of late with recordings by Peter Evans, Nate Wooley, and Rob Mazurek, but the tradition actually stretches back to 1970s pioneers Bill Dixon and Wadada Leo Smith. In the 1990s, German trumpeter Axel Dorner and others advanced a minimalist improvisation, bridging their sounds with John Zorn's duck calls. Johansson pulls together many traditions and innovations on this 10 track 35-minute LP.
He might be best known for this contributions to Cortex, the freshest freewheeling jazz quartet of this new century. He is also a member of a trio with Øyvind Storesund and Paal Nilssen-Love, the quintet Friends and Neighbors, and Nilssen-Love's Large Unit. Here everything is stripped down to one man, one trumpet (or flugelhorn), and some mutes and plungers.
Johansson fashions music from the past 50 years of trumpet innovations. "Monologue" exhibits a crisp richness of tone, any classical student would envy, while "Fractures" delves into the slurry slap-tongue hyper-expressive extended technique his producer Lasse Marhaug might sample in a club clearing noise performance. Yes, what we are listening to is an artist in full command of his instrument. What is key here is that he doesn't just present sound, but song form. "Lines For Mathilde" is a luxurious flugelhorn ballad and the title track might be the solo you waited for all night when he is playing in another group.
The music is available as an LP or download.
Monologue; A Fistful Of Density; Thematics; Sonic Transformation; Signal This;
Bucket; Somewhat Faster; Fractures; Line For Mathilde; Home Alone.