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Not Quite All Included or Some Included might be appropriate names for the trio of Swedish saxophonist Martin Küchen, and Norwegian bassist Jon Rune Strøm and drummer Tollef Østvang. Reason being that the repertoire on Melted Snow partially replicates that on Satan in Plain Clothes (Clean Feed, 2015) by All Included, which comprises the same threesome with the addition of trombonist Mats Alekint and trumpeter Thomas Johansson. Unsurprisingly the seven cuts on this limited edition LP boast the same mixture of boisterous free jazz and affecting minor key tunes, with if anything even looser arrangements.
Typically Küchen's raw, emotion drenched tenor saxophone rails against roiling bass and drums. That's the case in the rendition of the reedman's "Satan in Plain Clothes (breakdown)," which makes an arresting start with febrile bass sawing and churning drums, before incendiary tenor kicks in. The contrast between the slow paced horn and the faster rhythm promotes a general uneasiness and tension, a trick repeated in the mournfully desolate "I've Been Lied To." Küchen's broad vibrato and vocalized overtones add to the visceral charge. As he digs into the themes, he barely plays a pure-toned note, shading his lines with vulnerable squeals and breathy murmurs. On soprano he cultivates a curdled full tone, sounding almost like a duck call at points on the angular jointly credited "Stein."
In the engine room Strøm and Østvang act as a single propulsive entity. Strøm takes a wiry and haltingly melodic pizzicato solo on the impassioned title track, but otherwise their slow boiling rhythmic stew progresses in fits and starts. Although they avoid meter for almost the whole program, they nonetheless create a restless energy. They combine with a loping bass riff and lightly cantering drums as the Swede's soprano wails on the bassist's "Tune For Martin." But they give the closing "Satan In Plain Clothes (beat up)" a radically different treatment this time round, with martial cadences which turn downright funky by the end, and in doing so provide a sense of resolution to this outstanding disc.
Track Listing: Satan In Plain Clothes (breakdown); I've Been Lied To; Tune For Martin; Melted Snow; Three Courses; Stein; Satan In Plain Clothes (beat up).
Personnel: Martin Küchen: tenor and soprano saxophones; Jon Rune Strøm: double bass; Tollef Østvang: drums.
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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