At the heart of the jazz listening experience lies a paradox. Jazz is a music built on the live interplay of musicians, material and self, but we experience the music mostly through the record, or as Andre Millard calls it, in his book America on Record
, ”the primary experience.” Millard also extends this notion to the musicians: ”Recorded sound was the great educator, attracting generations of performers into musical careers and schooling them in styles of music which were not often written down.”
Enter Swedish tenor saxophonist Robert Nordmark and his solid sextet album on Imogena, In Motion. It features ten original compositions, eight by Nordmark and two by guitarist Peter Nylander, showing all the hallmarks of a musical education that had a healthy dash of Blue Note albums, and most definitely a few ECM ones. Nordmark writes tight, memorable heads, allows for compact solos, uses rock solid swinging grooves and then adds fine harmonic details for an edgier sound.
On ”The Things You Said” the sextet has to navigate a complex, shifting head arrangement full of unison passages and rhythmic shifts. “Our House” keeps it simple with a strong, cinematic theme that sticks in the ear. “Not What You Think” combines all of Nordmark’s strengths and keeps the listener guessing. A funeral march-like piano intro shifts to a brief funky interlude, moves through an angular head chart, and then sets off into swinging solo section that cooks like a Sonny Clark record.
The ensemble demonstrates great technical facility without losing an expressive touch. Pianist Daniel Karlsson hits a Jarrett-like pocket on ”Round & Around,” where it feels like his rolling lines could stretch on forever. Nylander contributes significantly as a composer, accompanist, and soloist. On the minor mood groove of his “Cavalla,” the theme is tangle of Nordmark’s lead statement and trumpeter Gustavo Bergalli’s counterpoint. “Us” is a ballad that moves between an ominous bridge and more brittle melody. Nylander shapes it with wispy chords and crystalline lines.
On In Motion one hears not only the musical footprints of the past but the recorded footprints as well. Imogena’s engineer Åke Linton shapes a fine balance between the bold, earthy Blue Note sound and Manfred Eicher’s more spacious, detached tones. It tends towards the latter, and sometimes lacks the sizzle of Rudy Van Gelder’s punchy mixes. A little less separation and clarity of the instruments, especially the different drum parts, could have turned the vamping ”It Doesn’t Matter When” into a dusty, churning groove.
Whether Nordmark means these references to be intentional or not is beside the point. In Motion shows a musician drawing on all his experience—playing, recorded, educational—to craft an engaging set of tunes that gives listeners another recorded experience worth having.
Visit Imogena and Robert Nordmark on the web.