Sunday, March 01, 2015

Friends and Neighbors - Hymn For a Hungry Nation (Clean Feed, 2014)

Friends and Neighbors is a Norwegian jazz quintet that took their name from an obscure Ornette Coleman LP which is appropriate since they have a wonderful Ornette like sound that combines post-bop jazz with sections of free improvisation. The band consists of Andre Roligheten on tenor saxophone and clarinet, Thomas Johansson on trumpet, Oscar Gronberg on piano, Jon Rune Strom on bass and Tollef Ostvang on drums. The opening track, “Hymn For a Hungry Nation” is fast paced and full bodied with a propulsive free section of piano, bass and drums followed by confident horn riffing and a spitfire trumpet solo, and brash saxophone section. They go to the source with “John’s Abbey” setting up a probing and yearning saxophone section, followed by fractured bass and drums which keeps everyone on their toes. Bowed bass and clarinet give a different feel to “Give Me Jarrison” the music develops a sense of disorientation and lack of resolution. “Skremmerud” shows the band charging out of the gate with a choppy theme, making way for twisting and turning openings for trumpet, before things get a little spaced out in the middle, moving toward an abstract section with bowed bass and rattling drums. The longest tune on the album “Vocals on the Run” which changes from a fanfare melody to a nice bass feature for Strom, before wide roving drums move the performance to another level with rippling percussive piano and peals of trumpet. There is an impressive free section for the entire band to improvise collectively, before powering back to the original theme and concluding. Finally, “Heading South” is a ballad, languid and emotional with heavy drops of piano flowing against broken rhythms with long tones of saxophone and trumpet making for a sense of anxiety, before they let up and return to the lush melody. This was a fine album from an exciting band. The nod to Ornette Coleman is prevalent throughout the music but only as a jumping off point, this band has much to say on their own. Hymn for a Hungry Nation - amazon.com

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