Atomic/School Days - Distil (Okka Disk, 2008)
Atomic/School Days is a very interesting collaboration of Scandinavian and American musicians Ken Vandarmark on saxophones, Jeb Bishop on trombone, Magnus Broo on trumpet, Ingebrigt Haker Flaten on bass on Kjell Nordeson on vibraphone, Havard Wiik on piano and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums. These musicians have collaborated with each other in a wide variety of projects and that familiarity show throughout this set. The music is wide open with both free and composed sections, and there are some very exciting solos as well as periods of collective improvisation. The music here was recorded live at the Green Mill club in Chicago in 2006. "Deadline" opens the album with fast and frenetic playing and some great raw soloing from Vandermark on baritone saxophone. "Irrational Ceremony" is slow and spacey in the beginning, with spare piano and drums gradually picking up the pace. Horns muscle in over rippling piano with a strutting trombone solo over bubbling bass clarinet with neat drumwork making for a very cool sound. Strong muscular trumpet struts in with a solo over vibes, comping piano and drums. Nillsen-Love really sounds great, just propelling the music forward like a rocket engine. There is some wild, cathartic group improv before moving back into the slow and spacey for the conclusion. This was a really extraordinary performance, very exciting and indicative of the powerful music that this band is capable of. "Visitors" has fast drumming and piano to open, then horns lick in to gear with a cool fanfare backed by vibes, flatulent baritone then a free sounding tenor solo. "Dark Easter" has slower, more open hons bobbing and weaving around each other. The music moves into wild free territory, then a percussive vibe and drum duet, trumpet soloing over choppy drums and vibes giving way to tough trombone to take things out. "Andersonville" opens with fragile vocal sounding trombone with the other horns framing it. The music is spacious and relatively mild, then breaks down into a clarinet and percussion section, with some shrieking tenor saxophone to liven things up. A majestic trumpet interlude underpinned by riffing baritone. "Fort Funston" has a nice tenor saxophone solo, really digging deep and just going all out, and cool progressive big band riffing. Wiik takes over with a rapid and percussive piano interlude, before the band wraps things up. I found this to have been a very exciting and interesting set. There is a wide variety of music on display here and the musicians play with passion and joy.
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