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There were days when albums customarily started with the proverbial flagwaver or something evocative of barns being stormed, but The Source is a radically different proposition. Trombonist Oyvind Braekke's "Caballero" is built around a simple, plodding figure played on bowed bass in tandem with faintly martial drumming. Within the scope of its soundscape, the flags only flap disconsolately, and it's probably best not to think about what might be lurking in the barn.
In the course of its existence, this Nordic quartet might have devised some creative routines, if this recorded evidence is anything to go by, and if so then it is to the musicians' credit that none of them sound slick or rehearsed to the point of banality. Because of this, the tenor sax/trombone unison that serves as the intro to drummer Per Oddvar Johansen's "Mmball" sounds like nothing other than an integral part of the group's musical expression, as does the fact that Braekke's "Water Glass Rhapsody" breaks almost immediately into a trombone solo above accompaniment that might be the musical equivalent of shifting sands.
None of this would amount to much, however, if it weren't for the fact that this is a remarkably well-integrated group whose members are simultaneously alert to the demands of distinctive composition and each other. The results, as per Johansen's "Tamboura Rasa," are both stimulating and rewarding, which amounts to a trick that may seem simple but is only infrequently pulled off.
Character should always be a welcome asset, musically speaking, and if some arbitrary list of criteria was to be drawn up to consider that and qualities such as originality and clarity of thought, then the Source would be able to tick most if not all the boxes, especially in view of the fact that a lot of this music is more distinctive than a lot of what's currently out there. It's to be hoped that the group's association with ECM is a long and fruitful one, and that this disc is a marker for even greater things to come.
Track Listing: Caballero; Un Fingo Andalou; Libanera; Prelude To A Boy; Tamboura Rasa; Mmball; Osterled; Life So Far; Tribute; Mail Me Or Leave Me; Alle Bla De Er; Water Glass Rhapsody; A Surrender Triptych.
Personnel: Trygve Seim: tenor and soprano saxophones; Oyvind Braekke: trombone; Mats Eilertsen:
bass; Per Odvar Johansen: drums.