The Godforgottens – Never Forgotten, Always Remembered (CF 164)
Atomic – Theater Tilters Vol. 1 (Jazzland)
Swedish trumpeter Magnus Broo and Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love are the soldering points of both these CDs. However, not only is each disc significant in its own way, but the thought process involved in creation is as different as the other musicians involved.
Energetic Young Lions with class, the five members of Atomic have put together a CD of hard-hitting originals whose ball-in-socket performance speaks to the group’s constant touring over the past decade. Two other Atomics are Norwegian – pianist Håvard Wiik and bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten – and one, multi-reedist Fredrik Ljungkvist – is Swedish. Leaders in other circumstances – as are Nilssen-Love and Broo – collectively the players have worked in different groups in Europe and North America, with fellow Scandinavians, Americans, such as multi-reedist Ken Vandermark and pianist Marilyn Crispell plus Germans, including saxophonist Peter Brötzmann and trumpeter Axel Dörner.
An altogether different proposition, and recorded three years earlier, Never Forgotten, Always Remembered is more claustrophobic and atmospheric than Theater Tilters Vol. 1. Unlike his literally hard-hitting performance on the other CD, Nilssen-Love is relatively restrained here, depending more on ancillary percussion than his regular kit. Similarly Broo’s identity as a modernist Clifford Brown on the other CD is traded on Never Forgotten for the long lines and rubato timing associated with Nordic sounds and ECM records.
Eschewing the soporiferous patterns of many ECM dates and replacing them with individual quirks however is the job of the two plus the other Godforgottens. Swedish bass player Johan Berthling, a contemporary of the Norwegians, has a reach which extends into playing electro microtonalism with the likes of Australian guitarist Oren Ambarchi. The last deity-abandoned contributor is veteran keyboardist Sten Sandell, whose Gush trio set the standard for Free Jazz in Sweden. Further differentiating this session from the other, is that Sandell plays not only his usual piano, but Hammond B3 organ as well and also exposes his guttural vocalizing.
Over the course of three extended instant compositions, the quartet amasses a string of distinct and mercurial tones that are sometimes droning and sometimes shrill. Hand slapping his strings or sawing them to induce tonal tension, Berthling provides the date’s percussive centre. Nilssen-Love frequently brings forward his shaken chains and rattling bell tree as well as outlining cymbal pops and bass drum smacks, while Broo’s carefully constructed chromatic lines often give way to shrill brays and juicy tongue stops. Sandell’s on-again-off-again organ drone is in place, but so too are his key-clipping and high-frequency piano runs, usually sounded fortissimo.
Maintaining a similar pitch throughout the session builds to the nearly-20 minute “Remembered Forgotten”. It’s taken staccatissimo courtesy of the drummer’s rim shots, paradiddles and pumps plus physically powerful strums and pops from the bassist. After Broo’s linear grace notes relax into moderato fluttering, Sandell takes centre stage with techniques that flow separately from either hand: a low-pitched continuum from one and high-pitched silent movie-theatre-like riffs from the other. Berthling’s ostinato ushers in piece’s final variant, until percussion rat-tat-tats from Nilssen-Love’s and Sandell’s low-frequency organ flutters giving way to distant plunger work from Broo.
Role reversal comes for the drummer and trumpeter on the other CD, where nearly every track is characterized by vivacity and speed. This is particularly noticeable on the final tune, Ljungvist’s self-explanatory “Bop About”. Reminiscent of a Jazz Messengers showpiece, this line from the Kristinehamn-born multi-reedist follows every Hard Bop hallmark. Ljungvist’s slurs, honks and flutter tonguing are spelled by high-pitched fireworks from Broo, splayed piano comping and back-beat drumming. Then, following the turnaround, the tenor saxophonist exhibits his intense vibrato before a shout chorus brings back the head, which is repeated once again following a pause.
Less formulistic, other compositions showcase the quintet’s range. Wiik’s “Murmansk” for instance is built around horn parallelism, double counterpoint whose lines never meet. Ljungvist also shows off his clarinet skill here. Staccato blowing modulates upwards to near-altissimo shrills and as effortlessly moves downwards to pressurized squeaks. Håker Flaten’s intermittent plucks and Wiik’s staccato pitter-pattering are also featured. But the highlight is Nilssen-Love’s bravura solo, beginning with paddling and paradiddles, as he works away from the drum head centres to the rims.
One of the three Chicago-associated tunes – “Green Mill Tilter” and “Bop About” are named for Windy City clubs – “Andersonville”, is Ljungvist’s homage to the late tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson. To avoid comparisons, the reed man initially uses his clarinet to match contralto trills with Broo’s heraldic flourishes and concludes by snorting away on baritone saxophone. With the initially discordant contrapuntal horn line backed by clipped, high-frequency chording from Wiik, Håken Flaten’s ostinato and a quickening parade-ground beat from Nilssen-Love, it’s the bassist’s tough pulsing that redirects the tune to a Boppy swinger. Atop drags and flams from the drummer, the exposition is restated among Broo’s rubato blasts, then drops away for a growling baritone sax solo and some woody bass slapping.
Redefining existing styles so that they fit their personalities as if they were well-tailored suits, is evidentially the preoccupation of this group of talented Scandinavians. More to the point they do so in their own way, avoiding the slavish emulations of many of their American confreres.