By Tim Niland
Friends and Neighbors is an up and coming modern jazz band from Norway that took their name from an Ornette Coleman LP called Friends and Neighbors: Live at Prince Street. This is appropriate since they have a wonderful free-bop sound which recalls the classic Coleman quintet and combines post-bop jazz with sections of free improvisation. The band consists of Andre Roligheten on tenor saxophone and clarinet, Thomas Johansson on trumpet, Oscar Gronberg on piano, Jon Rune Strom on bass and Tollef Ostvang on drums. The band comes out hard on the opening track, “What’s Wrong” with a strong horn fanfare and powerful rhythm section play of rippling piano, bass and drums. Johansson’s trumpet reaches forth into silence, and then is met by strong riffs from the group, and develops a spitfire solo statement. Roligheten’s saxophone is next to branch out for a solo, powerfully moving amidst the band’s accompaniment, making for a suspenseful, constantly evolving journey. “Fool’s Pay” features a brash opening section for horns and drums with some excellent fluid and flowing piano playing making up the middle section, where Gronberg dances mightily across the keys at times recalling Don Pullen or Cecil Taylor. Another interlude for trumpet and band interaction follows, followed by a turbulent saxophone based section which gets get deeper and deeper as the music goes on, resonating across the music in a very potent fashion. The horns sputter and squeal in an exciting fashion on “Friends,” twirling around each other like ecstatic dancers in open space. The whole band crashes in and things really take off, before cutting out for a bass solo, then building back up with strong and rhythmic drums and piano and then the full band comes together for an excellent conclusion. “Jaguar” has a punchy and bracing theme, that opens up for piano and bass clarinet, which traverse the wide open sound field. Things slowly fill in, let by trumpet and deep seated bass and the full band pulling together for some excellent collective improvisation. This was a fine album from an exciting band. Their debt to Coleman’s music is clear, but his music is only the starting point, and this excellent band is making fine original music on their own.