Over the past several years, jazz fans have been quite lucky to hear a significant amount of new work from Scandinavian improvisers. However, most of the Scandinavian improvisers who have cracked the international jazz scene are committed to free improvisation. Those who embrace more traditional roots, while still dedicated to pushing at the boundaries of those roots, are not mentioned in the same breath as Mats Gustafsson or his compatriots. Swedish tenor man Jonas Kullhammar is one of a small legion of inside-outside jazz artists who could change that landscape.
Son of a Drummer is Kullhammar's fourth release for his Moserobie label. He's recorded free improvisation with Paal Nilssen-Love and folk-rock with Nicolai Dunger, but most of Kullhammar's recordings follow a snaky path of unbridled, gutbucket tenor amid a modal post bop setting, a la Sam Rivers or Alan Skidmore. Snake City North paired this free-swinging small group sound with the Norbotten Big Band for a 100% Proof aesthetic; Son of a Drummer is a bit more reined-in, allowing room for plaintiveness as well as high-energy music. With his working quartet of pianist Torbjörn Gulz, bassist Torbjörn Zetterberg and drummer Jonas Holgersson, Kullhammar approaches four originals and the Swedish jazz standard "Corny Waltz with a subdued fire.
"Hitman is an up-tempo swinger, coupling a sharp, staccato head with a wide modal wingspan. Kullhammar stretches his post bop chops in fine, heel-digging fashion, quickly edging into coarse multiphonics that show his lineage from Newk to Pharaoh and beyond. In some ways, though the rhythm section is tight and honed their backing of Kullhammar doesn't always fit his stretching exercises. "Stormen is a lilting folk ballad, its theme played perhaps a bit too cleanly, but as Gulz drops out for the first half of the tenor solo, Kullhammar nags a phrase in an intense, slow crackle, mining an entirely new set of dense textures from the tune's parameters.
Pianist Berndt Egerbladh's "Corny Waltz is given a decidedly relentless treatment, Kullhammar going for keening skronk as Zetterberg and Holgersson set up an intense thrum, Gulz's chords roiling less than might be but still providing able support. As an example of inside-outside playing, the quartet almost seems to be fighting for its identity rather than walking an aesthetic tightrope. It will be interesting to see how this group progresses over the next album or two, but for now Son of a Drummer is a worthy notch in its cap.
Track Listing: Hitman; Stormen; Bendiksen; Corny Waltz; The Rise & Fall of Sour T.
Personnel: Jonas Kullhammar: tenor saxophone; Torbj
Year Released: 2006
| Record Label: Moserobie
| Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream