Grann Musik (Neighbour Music)
Sten Sandell and Mattias Stahl may bring to mind the historic piano and vibraphone duo of Sun Ra and Walt Dickerson (although Stahl adds marimba and glockenspiel). But what the two duos have in common is little more than the adoption of jazz idioms and improvising processes. The vocabulary the two Swedish musicians use is distinct. In the older pairing Dickerson’s refined Blue Note sonority, which Andrew Hill has praised, was combined with the “cosmic jazz” of the Arkestra’s leader. In the newer duo, the cubist post-bop Stahl meshes with the wide lexical parameters of the pianist, who has often worked in Mats Gustafsson’s Gush. Sandell’s vocabulary including elements taken from such origins as contemporary classical and new music (notably John Cage, Henry Cowell, Mark Feldman, and Iannis Xenakis), progressive rock (in the This Heat and Tuxedomoon line), and the ethnic traditions of Northern Europe, India, Japan, and Tibet, in the later case appropriating Buddhist vocal techniques. In some senses this is a curious pairing. Sandell’s approach to piano can be cerebral in its extreme complexity, even in the moments of more improvisational spontaneity (somewhere between Paul Bley’s lyricism and Cecil Taylor’s “free-flowing”). Stahl, conversely, is a physical vibraphonist, with abstract tendencies but with a special affection for color. The music they create together is filled with contrasts and surprising convergences, as if by magic, in pieces that seem as natural as the water of a river flickering with the light of the sun. In English “Grann Musik” translates as “Neighbor Music,” a reflection of the intimacy two good neighbors, even those with wildly different personalities, can form.