Åkerblom & Zenger ‘Live At Romu Jazz’ LP (Jazzaggression) 3/5

‘Live At Romu” is a recording of an improvised bop performance from July, 2015 by a young Finnish duo, Max Zenger switching between alto saxophone and flute and double bassist Teemu Åkerblom switching between fingers and bow!

“Peaceful Mornings”, the first of five original compositions on this release, is a steady start. The ponderously slow semi-walking bass lines underpinning the rhythm with short, melodic and sometimes repetitive bursts of saxophone.

“So One Has To Go” is much more interesting and enjoyable. The longest and most successful track on this release, Åkerblom’s chordal harmonics introduce the idiosyncratic bass lines which occupy the space available from the softer flute tone. Max Zenger’s flute is more tuneful and fluid than the playing on the first track. After a few minutes, the track is propelled by the walking bass and dense chords when Zenger later switches to saxophone. There seems to be greater synergy between the two musicians on here.

“Aurajoen Rannoilla” begins with flute and bowed bass. The track is slow which emphasises the heavy timbre. The effect is surprising considering there are just two instruments.

On “Abstract Blues & The Truth”, another outstanding track, the saxophone and repetitive bass orbit and slowly gravitate toward the track’s simple and bluesy motif. The bass explores chordal variations and concludes with a sound weirdly reminiscent (to me!) of Bo Diddley’s old chugging records. Also, there’s a warmth here that is sometimes not apparent with improvised music.

Åkerblom continues in a similar vein to where he left off in the previous track on “Frozen Land”, with intermittent and repetitive bursts of activity providing a solid foundation for Zenger’s sax to build upon. The tune lightens and slows to wind down the record.

An improvisational set with just two musicians is a challenge but also an opportunity to explore the space usually occupied by other band members. They approach this with intelligence, using different techniques and even different instruments. Zenger’s flute playing is good but is also enhanced by juxtaposition to his, probably inferior, sax noodlings. Sometimes, though, the music is a little too sparse and becomes static and rhythmically inert. The album is more successful when Åkerblom’s bass lines give the music propulsion and momentum. “So One Has To Go” and “Abstract Blues & The Truth” have that rhythmic drive and are particularly absorbing. Coupled with the accomplished musicianship, this album is interesting and exciting. It demands your full attention.

Kevin Ward