By Ken Waxman
Schisms may be appearing in many countries of the European Union, but you certainly wouldn’t believe that’s happening if you follow the careers of some of the continent’s busiest improvising musicians. Like programmers, scientist or others with transferable skills, they’re as apt to be regularly found in two or three countries besides their own working with players native to even more dominions.
Take Portuguese trumpeter/flugelhornist Susana Santos Silva for example. Although the Porto native is leader or a member of many ensembles in her own country, she’s likely to show up in Northern Europe playing alongside sound explorers from that area and other regions. These recent discs embody this. Recorded at Finland’s Tampere Jazz Happening, Life and Other Transient Storms pairs her with Danish tenor and soprano saxophonist Lotte Anker, plus a Swedish rhythm section of pianist Sten Sandell, drummer Jon Falt and bassist Torbjörn Zetterberg, the last of whom is a frequent collaborator.
Except for an intense a capella brass workout that spans the introduction to “Other Transient Storms” any hierarchical instrumental organization is missing on the quintet disc. Throughout like a statesman meeting with peers, Santos Silva intersects with each associate in turn, trying not to favor one over another. This is especially true on the extended “Life”, with Zetterberg adhering to a steadying floating bass line and Falt’s rhythmic thrust often expressed as clockwork-like time keeping. However when Sandell, who has forged his identity in Free Music for years, most notably in the Gush trio, hardens his hunt-and-peck keyboard rumbles to hardheaded buoyancy he’s answered both by the trumpeter’s poised flutter tonguing and strained tone flutters from the saxophonist. With the trumpeter apt to turn to barely heard graceful microtones, as compared to Anker’s sharp tough tones reminiscent of 1970s Energy Music, the opposite philosophies of the horn players complement each other perfectly: yin to yang. The strategy works so well that when all join for the climax it’s like a combination of powers by members of the Justice League of America. Following a restrained bass solo and some drum pops, wide-range pianism turns takes on a story-telling mode, with the narrative embellished by top-of-range brass fragments and reed honks. Losing no strength at its finale, this pressure is slightly lessened on the second track as both horn players investigate the distant crannies of their instruments, with the menacing keyboard strategies becoming bluesy and moody to hook up with the others by the finale.