Given the breadth of the Clean Feed label’s extensive Scandinavian improvisation and free jazz discography, this large-scale orchestra, featuring venerable trumpeter Thomas Johansson, is not strictly framed on avant-garde persuasions. In fact, the predominate x-factor that deals the KO punch is how hummable melodic hooks alluringly coexist with emotive soloing without an endless range of cacophonic dialogue, which is an element that, at times, can pose severe listening fatigue for the willing listener.
With forceful melodies and a horde of dynamics, the musicians spread good cheer throughout, while offsetting several movements with playfully articulated angst. For example, on the opening track “No Longer Gage,” Even Helte Hermansen meshes a psycho guitar blitz with wily horn choruses and venomous attacks, riding above a bustling melodic theme. Yet “As We See It…” commences with a profound Carla Bley-like horn arrangement, followed by the hornists’ extended note choruses, spiced with an Afro-Beat jazz pulse and a magnetic melody line. Here, pianist Rune Klakegg‘s animated soloing accents the primary storyline amid cascading notes and a few mischievous deconstructions, followed by a poetic percussion outbreak.
Guttorm Guttormden‘s warm sax lines on “Fierce Disputes And Drunken Reconciliation” ignite a rhythmic horn chart, anchored by Dag Erik Knedal Andersen‘s contrasting toms pattern and snappy backbeats. But Jan Olav Renvåg‘s deep bass lines help transition the band into a straight-four jazz rock groove. It is a heavy and propulsive piece as the musicians eventually burst the balloon while closing out with a New Orleans-style slow drag vamp. Simply stated, As We See It… contains no fluff, filler material or any inclination of musicians cruising on autopilot. It is the real deal and a top pick for 2019.