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Angles + Elle-Kari With Strings: The Death Of Kalypso

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Angles + Elle-Kari With Strings: The Death Of Kalypso
As a genre, jazz-opera is thinly populated. The recorded archive is marked more by quality than quantity, with albums by Mike Westbrook and Kate Westbrook, Carla Bley and Charlie Haden to the fore. But the best ever jazz-opera, in this parish anyway, predates anything by these musicians. Composer Todd Matshikiza and lyricist Pat Williams' King Kong premiered in the Great Hall of the University of Johannesburg in February 1959 to rapturous reviews, and went on to romp through sold-out proscenium-arch theatres in Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth. Among the musicians whose South African careers were boosted by appearing in the show, or who began successful international careers by jumping ship during a British tour in 1961, were Miriam Makeba, Gwigwi Mrwebi, Hugh Masekela, Kippie Moeketsi, Letta Mbulu and Mosa Jonas Gwangwa.

The Death Of Kalypso joins this distinguished company. It is performed by Sweden's eight-piece band Angles augmented by singer Elle-Kari Sander and a string quartet. Music and libretto were written by Angles' tenor saxophonist Martin Kuchen. Instrumental soloists include Küchen, trumpeter Magnus Broo, trombonist Mats Aleklint, baritone saxophonist Fredrik Ljungkvist and vibraphonist Mattias Ståhl. Heavyweights all. Double bassist Johan Berthling is a sure anchor, as always. Angles defines itself as a groove-based free-jazz ensemble. On this album, there is relatively little free jazz, though what there is is fierce, but there are plenty of engaging motor rhythms.

The 65-minute album is a fundamentally positive one, despite the subject matter: the ancient Greek myth of the nymph Kalypso, which involves human hubris, war and family feuds. Despite, too, the gloomy cover art—something the Thanatosis label (logo: a dead fly) seems to specialise in (see also Vilhelm Bromander's 2023 album, In This Forever Unfolding Moment, reviewed here). Some of the music is dark and creepy, certainly, but some is lively and lush—"A Campaign Of Tragedy," for instance, is, unexpectedly, swing based and buoyant. Even the darker tracks, such as "Kalypso In Karlsbad, Haunted By Dreams" (check the YouTube below), have extended passages that are pretty and carefree.

Perhaps the best single word to describe the album is: complex—complicated enough for one to have to meet the music halfway. The effort is worth it. There are riches aplenty to be found.

Track Listing

Messieurs-dames (Stuck In The Arching Caverns Of Hermes’ Court); Une Certaine Paix; A Campaign Of Tragedy (string quartet); Fetus Of Dawn (Kalypso Talks To Her Son Nausithous And Sings To The Gods); A Campaign Of Tragedy (aria); Cutting The Woods; The Caves Of Ogygia l; The Caves Of Ogygia ll; Kalypso In Karlsbad, Haunted By Dreams; A Campaign Of Tragedy; Outro And Overture; The Death Of Kalypso.

Personnel

Magnus Broo
trumpet
Mats Aleklint
trombone
Johan Berthling
bass, acoustic
Mattias Ståhl
vibraphone
Fredrik Ljungkvist
saxophone, tenor
Martin Kuchen
saxophone
Additional Instrumentation

Elle-Kari Sanders: vocals, backing vocals, additional trumpet, synth, glockenspiel; Raed Yassin: reading voice (4); Mattias Stahl: vibraphone, glockenspiel; Alex Zethson: piano, synth, Hammond organ; Fredrik Ljungkvist: baritone saxphone, clarinet; Martin Kuchen: tenor and soprano saxophones; Anna Lindal: violin, octave violin; Eva Lindal: violin, viola; My Hellgren: cello; Brusk Zanganeh: violin.

Album information

Title: The Death Of Kalypso | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Thanatosis Produktion


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