By Derek Stone
Momentum is a trio from Norway, featuring Jørgen Mathisen on soprano and tenor saxophones, Christian Meaas Svendsen on bass, and Andreas Wildhagen on drums. If you keep up with the ever-burgeoning Scandinavian jazz scene, you might recognize those names: Mathisen is a member of the Zanussi Five (whose Live in Coimbra is reviewed here), and Svendsen and Wildhagen have done work with Paal Nilssen-Love’s Large Unit. Wildhagen, in particular, was behind one of my favorite releases from last year, the Jonas Cambien Trio’s A Zoology of the Future.
On Momentum, they bring together some of the best elements from all of the different projects with which they’re involved, resulting in an excellent recording that reveals more each time you listen. The first two pieces here are all about setting the scene: “Gaining” is a writhing mass of clattering percussion, saxophone wails, and creaking bass. “Maintaining” is the sparsest of warm-ups, with each player offering only a repetitive, pointillistic stream of clipped notes. When the title track (and presumably the group’s anthem) appears, it’s a pleasant surprise – it’s free jazz, to be sure, but it lurches and swings with a relentless and infectious energy. Mathisen’s moans are Ayler-esque in the way they warble and stretch, while Svendsen attacks his bass with admirable resourcefulness: from lumbering cascades of notes, to bowed screeches, he’s got it all. As I expected, Wildhagen is as creative as ever, always dancing wildly on the line between controlled rhythm and torrential release.
Momentum is an excellent primer for those who want to familiarize themselves with the Norwegian free jazz scene – it’s short, it’s concise, and it often makes you want to flail around the room.