Angles – Every Woman is a Tree (CF 112)
Swedish alto saxophonist-composer Martin Küchen is most known for Exploding Customer, a pianoless quartet that functions more like a rock band in intent and delivery, less in the choice of material. His latest project, Angles, is an expanded effort in more ways than just personnel. Joining Küchen here are drummer Kjell Nordeson (Exploding Customer, School Days, AALY), trumpeter Magnus Broo, vibraphonist Mattias Ståhl, bassist Johan Berthling and trombonist Mats Äleklint on a program of six originals. In parts, this sextet is somewhat reminiscent of School Days/The Thing re-imagining of Norman Howard’s music (Anagram, 2002)—fire and brimstone abound, but with a distinctly modernist, architectural sense of organization. Yet Angles moves in a way funkier and less heavy-handed than The Thing and others of its ilk.
The set begins with “Peace is Not for Us,” a bluesy dirge for low, bowed bass, biting, sharp alto and Stahl’s delicate metallic flecks. Restated with the full ensemble, a tremendous weight becomes the theme, Nordeson pulsing in shimmering waves a la Sunny Murray, opening shop for martial orchestration. Äleklint is a muscular soloist, slushy tailgate and meaty flicks of the bugle. He puts so much mass behind his statement (and such forward motion) that the rhythm section seems torn between continuing its tidal wave or letting blistering tempi glint off sliding brass. Berthling starts “Don’t Ruin Me” unaccompanied, Ståhl and Nordeson providing loosely swinging metallic accents. Küchen brings the cavalry; as a player, he has integrated a number of different hard-edged altoists to his plate—Jackie McLean, Charles Tyler, Gary Bartz, and Roscoe Mitchell all figure into his braying, sinewy vocabulary (though he name checks one less known Stateside: Swede Lars Göran Ulander).
It wouldn’t be a Küchen project without large, slinky backbeat pieces and they’re here in the second half of the program. In the whiplash-inducing bounce of “My World of Mines,” horns pile onto one another, reading the theme in different tempi in an organic and gradual assertion of statements not dissimilar to the mid-song tune calling of Ayler or Cherry. As elsewhere, Ståhl is given significant room for his muted mallet cascades and tide pools—it seems as though other members of the ensemble are curious to hear what world he’s going to inhabit, and sit out to listen. Though all of the writing is Küchen’s, this is most importantly a collective ensemble in the truest sense of the word. Every Woman is a Tree is not only as solid a slice of contemporary Scandinavian free jazz as one could hope for—it’s rhythmic as all get-out and accessibly infectious.