The Norwegian-English quartet Food keeps refining the mostly Norwegian brand of mixing free-form modern jazz and warm electronica, begun on its last recording ( Veggie
, Rune Grammofon, 2002), in a much more subtle and transparent manner than found on other Norwegian contemporary releases by musicians like keyboard player Bugge Wesseltoft or trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer.
Food consists of English saxophonist Iain Ballamy, once among the vanguard of the British fusion in bands such as drummer Bill Bruford's Earthworks; and Norwegians Arve Henriksen on trumpet, a member of the Norwegian electro-jazz-improv quartet Supersilent and a renowned solo trumpeter; Mats Eilertsen on bass, a member of Norwegian pianist Håvard Wiik's trio; and Thomas Strønen on drums and production, a key member of Swedish saxophonist Fredrik Nordstrøm's Surd quartet and Virtual Imagination Unit and co-leader of a duo with Supersilent's keyboard player, Ståle Storløkken. This collective recorded two acoustic albums in live settings ( Food , Feral, 1999; Organic & GM Food , Feral, 2001) before beginning to experiment with electronics.
On Last Supper Food still opts for open-ended textures with no chordal center. The subtle use of electronics by all Food members and the focus on harmonic and melodic playing demonstrates the affinity between these players. Last Supper offers unique dreamlike soundscapes, highlighting the idiosyncratic playing of Henriksen, a whispery mode as if he were playing the Japanese shakuhachi flute (very close to Japanese trumpeter Natsuki Tamura's style, especially solo or in duets with his partner, pianist Satoko Fujii), and the lyrical and restrained playing, mainly on the soprano sax, of Ballamy.
But this release introduces Strønen as the key player, supplying irregular, fractured and loose rhythms in the tradition of great European improvising drummers such as Paul Lytton, Paul Lovens or Tony Oxley, but always keeping a rhythmic center, except on his own "Daddycation," the only track on which he does not appear. Strønen's wise and imaginative choice of brush strokes, delicate touches of the cymbals and hand drumming define Last Supper as Food's most mature release. Strønen take the lead part on only one track, the too-short, upbeat "Junkfood," in which Ballamy, Henriksen and Eilersten try to catch his driving rhythms.
As usual with Rune Grammofon's meticulously done releases, a beautiful minimalist sleeve of Kim Hiorthøy matches this beautiful music.
Visit Arve Henriksen and Iain Ballamy on the web.