Friday, February 01, 2019

Atomic - Pet Variations (Odin, 2018)

The great Scandinavian jazz band Atomic has always carved their own path, staying away from fads and trends, and drawing inspiration from both American free jazz and European jazz and free improvisation. The band consists of Fredrik Ljungkvist on reed instruments, Magnus Broo on trumpet, Håvard Wiik on piano, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten on bass and Hans Hulbœkmo on drums. This marks the first time that they have recorded an album that focuses on the work of other composers, beginning with the "Pet Variations / Pet Sounds" medley to start the album, with Håvard Wiik's original giving way to the Brian Wilson classic, allowing the music to begin with a strong and dramatic feeling. The path of the music unfolds into the confident trumpet solo accompanied by crisp drumming, taut bass and spare piano chords. The music changes shape, to brushed percussion and quiet piano framed by horns, becoming complex, yet engaging. Saxophone and very fast drumming emerge and drive the music forward relentlessly with occasional percussive piano chords and trumpet asides, returning to the theme of a performance that encompassed a large area of ground. Carla Bley's "Walking Woman" has a short near bluesy feeling for tenor saxophone and piano, playing an emotional duet. Bass and trumpet join, and then take their own turn with a brief duet section, patient and unruffled, before the piano enters and the full band convenes on a strident collective improvisation. "Louange à l'Éternité de Jésus" is a classical composition by Olivier Messiaen, opening with spare and haunting trumpet, joined by reverent piano, adding texture to the long quiet pastel tones that arc out from the brass as the remainder of the musicians in he group slowly join into this quietly unfolding performance. The music will gain volume slowly, but the pace remains slow and stately, focused on how the trumpet with add energy to a climbing motif over repetitive piano chording. "Inri" by Alexander von Schlippenbach uses skittish bass and drums to good effect, creating an open and inviting landscape for the band to launch into a powerful performance with barrelling horns creating a dramatic scene. Some excellent piano playing is added to the bass and drums as the horns stand aside and the rhythm team creates a powerful statement. Tenor saxophone joins in, creating a torrid improvisation, and finally the trumpet returns bringing the full band to boil, and adding a gritty, roiling solo of his own. Finally, "Karin's Mode" by Jan Garbarek ends this typically excellent Atomic album with tight brass playing on the theme, along with bright piano chords, nimble bass and drums. The music reaches out toward the listener particularly the horns, with a raspy emotional quality to them which is impressive, and enveloping. Pet Variations -

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