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Halperin/Nyberg Connection: Snow Tiger

James Pearse By

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There is no such thing as a 'snow tiger.' The closest species that exists is the Siberian tiger but they are the same colour as their Indian cousins (white tigers are "circus-bred mutants" according to the BBC). So, you may ask, what does this creature have to do with a cross-generational collaboration between a pioneer of New York's cool jazz scene and three young Scandinavian jazz musicians?

The answer lies in Swedish guitarist Pål Nyberg's long-running interest in the music and creativity of pianist Lennie Tristano. Intent on doing justice to the late pianist's legacy for his latest recording Snow Tiger (Stockholm Jazz Records, 2015), Nyberg secured the collaboration of former Tristano student and cool tenor saxophonist Jimmy Halperin.

Halperin studied with Lennie Tristano and, after Tristano's death, with pianist Sal Mosca. In the mid-Eighties, he was a member of saxophonist Warne Marsh's quintet and appeared on the excellent 1986 recording published as Back Home (Criss Cross Jazz, 2000) along with pianist Barry Harris, bassist David Williams and drummer Albert "Tootie" Heath.

Thanks to Halperin's masterful playing throughout and the local rhythm section that manages to guide as much as enable the two soloists—Nyberg and Halperin—to reach higher plains, the influence of Tristano is all over Snow Tiger. Yet, it must be made clear that Tristano is here not only in the repertoire but also in the four musicians' collective forays into the (slightly) freer end of improvisation. But make no mistake: this is in no way a free jazz recording; rather, it is a jazz recording by four musicians with consciously open minds.

As for the repertoire, the quartet makes easy work of music by Tristano and Tristano collaborators Warne Marsh and Lee Konitz. There's even a welcome original by Nyberg: Siri, a gorgeous ballad that may or may not be a reference to Apple Inc.'s "intelligent personal assistant and knowledge navigator."

We must surmise, then, that the elusive animal in the title of this recording is in fact a coded allusion to the omnipresent Lennie Tristano. There's no question that he was a very cool cat (pun intended) and this somewhat-unusual grouping pays tribute to him throughout—not only to the pianist and composer himself but also to his untameable musical attitude.

Track Listing: 1. Sound-Lee; 2. Dixie's Dilemma; 3. Siri; 4. Cycle Logical; 5. Lennie's Pennies; 6. Snow Tiger; 7. Subconscious-Lee; 8. 317 East 32nd Street; 9. Leave Me; 10. Subatomic Dominant

Personnel: Jimmy Halperin: saxophones; Pål Nyberg: guitar; Robert Erlandsson: bass; Andreas Fryland: drums

Title: Snow Tiger | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Stockholm Jazz Records

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