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Nordic Connect: Spirals

Troy Collins By

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Scandinavian jazz has enjoyed quite a renaissance over the past few decades, ranging from the cool Norwegian austerity of Jan Garbarek and Terje Rypdal's seminal 1970's recordings to the fiery Swedish expressionism of Magnus Broo and Mats Gustafsson's recent avant-garde excursions. Spirals, the sophomore effort of Nordic Connect, embraces both aesthetic dualities, serving as a pertinent example of the stylistic diversity currently championed by those of North Atlantic descent.

All of the members of Nordic Connect share similar ethnic pedigrees, making this session a family affair of sorts. Informally co-led by upcoming Canadian-born trumpeter Ingrid Jensen and her sister Christine Jensen (on alto and soprano saxophone), whose family has Scandinavian roots, the collective also includes Ingrid's husband, Alaskan-born, Norwegian-blooded drummer Jon Wikan. Ingrid's former school-mate, Swedish pianist Maggi Olin contributes the majority of the date's original compositions, with Swedish bassist Mattias Welin rounding out the group.

Building on longstanding friendships, the quintet's affable rapport is implicit; Welin's pliant basslines accentuate Wikan's spry downbeats with breezy congeniality, as Olin's effervescent Fender Rhodes chords and pellucid piano filigrees radiate bittersweet melancholy. Evincing the ensemble's cooperative sensibility, the Jensen sisters avoid gratuitous pyrotechnics, revealing a virtually clairvoyant sense of interplay. A diverse stylist, Ingrid's handsomely articulated phrasing channels a harmonic sophistication worthy of the late Woody Shaw, while her electronically augmented flurries conjure memories of Miles Davis' amplified explorations. Providing reedy balance to her sister's brassy flourishes, Christine's supple cadences shadow Ingrid's cascading flights with a sonorous tone and lilting sense of melody.

Invoking the album's titular theme, the quintet explores the different connotations spirals suggest across an array of moods, rhythms and textures, from the swirling drum-n-bass undertones of the ebullient, anthem-like opener "Travel Fever," to the tranquil introspection of "Yew." Embracing tonal extremes, they court a menacing serpentine groove on the Milesian fusion of "Earth Sighs," while easing into the languid ebb and flow of the opulent "Ballad North" with blissful élan.

Encompassing a variety of approaches, from turbulent drama to serene lyricism, Nordic Connect's verdant interpretations of their ancestral homeland's rich heritage make Spirals a compelling example of Scandinavian jazz at its most eloquent and harmonious.

Track Listing: Travel Fever; Song For Inga; Earth Sighs; Castle Mountain; M--oving; Yew; 66 Mike; Ballad North; Brejk ä Leg.

Personnel: Ingrid Jensen: trumpet, flugelhorn, electronics; Christine Jensen: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone; Maggi Olin: piano, Fender Rhodes; Mattias Welin: acoustic bass; Jon Wikan: drums, cajon, percussion.

Title: Spirals | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Artist Share


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