The State of Jonas Kullhammar's Moserobie 2010

Mark Corroto By

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The brainchild of Swedish saxophonist Jonas Kullhammar, Moserobie Music has released nearly one hundred discs to date in May 2010. Kullhammar's vision to "save the world through good music" might be a bit ambitious, but perhaps the venture is more important than the destination. Moserobie has released music by familiar names including saxophonist Hakon Kornstad and pianist Håvard Wiik. The label's strength is its adventure-loving character, allowing for experimentation and an unmistakable penchant for making pleasurable music.

Jonas Kullhammar Quartet
Fran Och Med Herr Jonas Kullhammar

The Jonas Kullhammar Quartet's latest release (its sixth) is yet another exuberant romp into the post-bop world of this talented tenor saxophonist. Following the 8-CD box The Naked Truth (Moserobie, 2009) that summed up its first ten years playing together, this disc continues (thank you) the energetically swinging and entertaining nature of Kullhammar's quartet music.

The quartet has all the hallmarks of saxophonist John Coltrane's classic quartet—pianist Torbjorn Gulz is his McCoy Tyner as drummer Jonas Holgersson his Elvin Jones and bassist Torbjorn Zetterberg fits the Jimmy Garrison role. Such is evident on the opening track "Sweet Home Snake City" with Gulz' opening piano romp and the full tenor sound Kullhammar generates over aggressive drums. Sweet, all the passion of Coltrane plus an injection of Scandinavian life from some skillful musicians.

But there is more, and wouldn't this music be a drag if the band were simply Coltrane imitators? Zetterberg's bowed bass on the ballad "October Is A Long Time" obliges the saxophonist before pulsing into a sympathetic blues. The group takes a quirky spin through "Rat Beat," certainly a crowd pleaser with its multiple possibilities for both groove and extended soloing. Kullhammar points outward before Gulz' piano returns the melody with just a few uncomplicated lines. And that may be the genius here. The quartet recognizes the melody and the listener are the priority. Its expression is always made with an overall clarity and purpose of the performance.

Zanussi Five
Ghost Dance

The three saxophone, bass and drum line up of the Norwegian jazz ensemble Zanussi Five shares the openness and possibilities of an a capella saxophone outfit without the sometimes tedious sound limitations. By incorporating bass and drums, in this case being led by bassist Per Zanussi, the sound is cogent, powerful and in a constant state of reinvention.

Ghost Dance follows two other Moserobie releases, the self-titled 2005 disc and Alborado from 2006. Zanussi has been heard with the likes of Raymond Strid, Crimetime Orchestra and Frode Gjerstad's Circulasione Totale Orchestra. With this project, his main thrust is to spread ideas and concepts in multiple directions.

His band of three saxophones—alto Rolf-Erik Nystrom, tenor Jorgen Mathisen, and baritone Eirik Hegdal—also has Mathisen and Hegdal doubling on clarinets. With the muscular drumming of Gard Nilssen the disc opens with the power blast of "Body And Zeuhl" before soothing into the agreeable "Arabesque." The Five operate with a self-possession, be it executing a ponderous melody or blasting into saxophonist Pharoah Sanders territory on "Id Machine," filled with extended technique and old-fashioned energy jazz.

Except for one improvised piece, "Aeriform," an airy mediation, the music is composed and the arrangements incisive and sharp. The title track is the best example of what this band is about. The stated melody pauses mid-song for a circus of sound and slowly the pieces fall back together as the melody returns, reminding you of the force behind the arrangement. A beautiful recording.

Mats Oberg Trio
So Very Mats

Pianist Mats Oberg, probably known best for his work with Morgan Agren in the Mats/ Morgan band, steps out with his own trio to deliver a very personal recording. While he sheds the Frank Zappa covers here, he does play some jazz that smells a bit funny, that is in a Frank Zappa way.

Oberg attends to a European jazz sensibility, sprinkling a classically trained hand into his jazz/folk music. But, things interestingly never stop at tradition. He shifts and slithers a bit of gospel into the "Lullaby Of Nerdland" or drops some theremin-sounding synthesizer on the spacey "Arsta-Skracken." Together with bassist Filip Augustson and drummer Sebastian Voegler, Oberg eschews the cliche for the new.

That's not to say he doesn't present some stark and beautiful playing, such as "Furuvagen 9" that begins with a sample of a street scene (mopeds and honking cars) then blossoms into a meditative elegy that would be at home in any concert hall. Same can be said for the odd synth sounds on "Lost In Litauen" that scrub the dust off the composition before Oberg livens it more with his harmonica playing. His compositions and electronics are reminiscent of Joe Zawinul. The very brief piece "Darksoft" has all the earmarks of Weather Report's sound, mixing the electronic with percussive meditation.

The marvelous world of Mats Oberg require repeated exploration.

Tracks and Personnel

Fran Och Med Herr Jonas Kullhammar

Tracks: Sweet Home Snake City; Blau; October Is A Long Time Too; Rat Beat; Morsan a Farsan; Bristol Scream.

Personnel: Jonas Kullhammar: tenor saxophone; Torbjorn Gulz: piano; Torbjorn Zetterberg: bass; Jonas Holgersson: drums.

Ghost Dance

Tracks: Body And Zeuhl; Arabesque; The Afreet; Hidden People; Aeriform; Beglomoi; Ghost Dance; Aimless Day; Id Machine.

Personnel: Per Zanussi: piano, double bass; Rolf-Erik Nystrom: alto saxophone; Jorgen Mathisen: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Eirik Hegdal: baritone saxophone, clarinet; Gard Nilssen: drums.

So Very Mats

Tracks: Child Intro/Nine And Fine; Lill-Ossian; Hermetos Cheese; Patrik; Arsta-Skracken; Furuvagen 9; Darksoft; Lullaby Of Nerdland; Tandem Days; Lost In Litauen; Lost In Who Knows What.

Personnel: Mats Oberg: piano, synth, prepared piano, organ, harmonica, voice; Filip Augustson: bass; Sebastian Voegler: drums.

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