Petter Eldh presents ‘Koma Saxo’ LP/CD (We Jazz) 5/5

Helsinki’s We Jazz Records has never had a problem in boasting stunning jazz releases, but their output this year alone has really helped to solidify their status as one of Europe’s premier labels: drummer Terkel Nørgaard’s ‘With Ralph Alessi’ project from earlier this year scored highly as an excellent release, as did saxophonist Timo Lassy & drummer Teppo Mäkynen’s self-titled collaborative album.

The new project from Petter Eldh, ‘Koma Saxo’, sees the Swedish bassist assemble a wonderful five-piece comprised of long-time friends and collaborators, each incredible artists in their own right, to further carry the flag for We Jazz Records in 2019.

Credited as the project’s bassist and producer, as well as handling supplementary recording and mixing duties, Eldh’s lengthy career has seen him play and perform with groups as varied as the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, SoulFanatix and Gard Nilssen’s Acoustic Unity, as well as many of the musicians featured throughout ‘Koma Saxo’. The combination of Eldh’s bass and drums by Christian Lillinger (Anton Eger, Burkhard Schlothauer) provide the backbone of the music for frontline saxophonists Mikko Innanen (Andrew Barker, Daniel Sommer), Jonas Kullhammar (La La Lars, Ola Englund) and Otis Sandsjö (Lucia Cadotsch, August Rosenbaum).

The roots of the music here stem from the group’s live performance at the We Jazz Festival, 3rd December 2018, before the recordings were later revisited by Eldh with the intention of shaping the music into the versions presented on the album. The end-result reveals the inspired and innovative vision that Eldh brought to the project, and maybe it was his love of 90s hip-hop and groups like A Tribe Called Quest that served as inspiration to some capacity, but many of ‘Koma Saxo’s compositions you could almost envisage as being the products of hip-hop producers like Madlib or DJ Premier – or at the very least these are tracks they’d salivate at the thought of getting their hands on.

‘Ostron Koma’, ‘Cyclops Dance’ and ‘Fanfarum For Komarum II’ are otherworldly in their approach and thrilling endorsements for everything contemporary jazz can and should be: it’s the kind of album that makes you ask “Is this music even jazz?” before you immediately settle on the realisation, “It couldn’t be anything BUT jazz!”

The We Jazz 2019 Festival kicks off this December with Koma Saxo on stage for two dates.

Imran Mirza