Allison Neale ‘Quietly There’ CD (Ubuntu Music) 4/5

In an era where jazz that doesn’t necessarily ‘push the boundaries’ is sometimes easily overlooked, it’s strangely refreshing to listen to an ‘old-school’ jazz record that’s straight-ahead, no-nonsense, and performed with such an understated skill. The aptly titled “Quietly There”, the latest release from Seattle born saxophonist Allison Neale, evokes the spirit of Paul Desmond, Art Pepper and Stan Getz, effortlessly capturing the feel and vibe of a bygone era.

This is Neale’s fifth album and features the renowned NYC guitarist Peter Bernstein, along with bassist Dave Green and drummer Steve Brown. Taking its title from a song by the late Johnny Mandel, “Quietly There” also features rarely performed tunes from The Great American Songbook and compositions by guitarist Jimmy Raney and pianist Horace Silver.

Despite the fact that this quartet are drawing largely on older material, it is pleasingly apparent that they appear to have forged an extremely warm and likeable identity of their own. There’s a lovely, natural feel to this recording that I like very much. Especially noticeable is the connection between Neale and guitarist Bernstein. Their intuitive musical relationship is clear for all to hear, with guitar and sax complementing one another with a charming grace and fluency.

Highlights include the infectious “Darn That Dream”, an extremely catchy “Split Kick”, the delightfully soft and engaging ballad “I’m Glad There Is You”, the classy and cool “Spring Is Here”, and the gorgeous “I Should Care”. Whilst the music throughout this album is quietly understated, one can still fully appreciate the skill of the soloing and the wonderful group interaction. There’s a clarity to the whole session that makes for easy, comforting listening.

Mike Gates

Bright Dog Red ‘Somethin’ Comes Along’ CD (Ropeadope) 5/5

‘Somethin’ Comes Along’ is the new double-disc album from the improv jazz outfit, Bright Dog Red, who can now boast their third album as part of Ropeadope Records.

Founded by drummer, Joe Pignato – a one-time student of the revered multi-instrumentalist, Yusef Lateef, and now a State University Professor in his own right – the Albany, New York, collective comprises of students who participated in extensive Pignato-led jam sessions over the years. A custom bestowed upon Pignato from those days under the tutelage of Lateef who was a renowned music improviser and was always committed to “changing the colours of the musical canvas”, as he once said. And that’s very much proved to be something of a mantra when it comes to the music of Bright Dog Red.

With their debut album, ‘Means To the Ends’ (Ropeadope Records, 2018), serving as a fascinating introduction to the band’s incomparable concoction of improvised jazz boldly mixed with elements of hip-hop and electronica, their follow-up record, ‘How’s By You?’, would come as soon as the following year. While Bright Dog Red’s debut masterfully dabbled within these different genres and styles, ‘How’s By You?’ incredibly seemed to plunge the band deeper within its own creation of psychedelic electronica but still managed to see them soar under these even more extreme conditions.

‘Somethin’ Comes Along’ sees Bright Dog Red revisit the rulebook once again for a two-disc album showcasing some stunning compositions brought to life by a line-up comprising of Pignato on drums, saxophonists Mike LaBombard and Eric Person, guitarist Tyreek Jackson, bassist Anthony Berman, rapper Matt Coonan and Cody Davies responsible for the electronic wizardry. With strong standouts on each of the two discs – ‘Somethin’ (disc #1) and ‘Something Else’ (disc #2) – the music runs a joyous gamut of music now synonymous with the BDR brand. While songs like the album’s title track ‘Somethin’ Comes Along’ and ‘Colors’ capture the band’s fervent energy, numbers like ‘Soft Hand’ showcase their ability within a more traditional New York, noir jazz aesthetic which, paired with Coonan’s freestyled verses, places you on those late night New York streets.

To outline the details and intricacies of Bright Dog Red’s music is a little like spoiling the ending of a great book. It’s best appreciated by listeners who like to have their conceptions of contemporary jazz challenged and who are willing to put those headphones on and bravely head off on that unrivalled adventure.

In 2019, Ropeadope Records boss, Louis Marks, sent out a tweet stating “When I was a kid and wanted to explore jazz I knew if I picked up a record with the Blue Note label it would be good. After 13 years at Ropeadope, I can safely say the same is true for this brand.” And he’s absolutely right. This year alone has seen some fantastic Ropeadope releases from N’Sawa-Saraca (‘Another Town’), Spirit Fingers (‘Peace’), Lakecia Benjamin (‘Pursuance: The Coltranes’) and the upcoming album from Christian Scott (‘AXIOM’). The continual efforts of Bright Dog Red, however, continue to challenge and inspire and are indicative of Marks’ vision for Ropeadope’s future.

Imran Mirza

Antti Lötjönen Quintet East / Aleksi Heinola Quintet / Oaagaada ‘Lonna 2019’ LP/CD (We Jazz) 3/5

Here we have the third in a series of live albums from Helsinki based label We Jazz. Each release showcases three of the label’s artists, this one with live performances captured at the island of Lonna, just outside Helsinki in July 2019.

As is becoming apparent with these releases, the label isn’t afraid to mix things up to keep the feel fresh and vibrant. Featured on this recording are performances by Aleksi Heinola Quintet, Antti Lötjönen Quintet East and Oaagaada.

Each act brings with them their own style and vibe and generally speaking there’s some interesting and engaging music to be enjoyed here. Drummer Heinola’s quintet and the Hämeenlinna-based quartet Oaagaada make their We Jazz Records debut here, while Lötjönen adds to this year’s debut release as leader for the label.

Aleksi Heinola Quintet swings freely with their natural ability of making no-nonsense hard bop sound fresh in a contemporary setting. The quintet’s music wouldn’t be out of place on a long-lost Blue Note album, with its sax and trumpet front-line working very well together and producing some nice solos. The vibe is cool, the mood relaxed, and the atmosphere engaging. Antti Lötjönen leads his star-studded Quintet East through a spirited rendition of Don Cherry’s “Art Deco”. In keeping with Cherry’s music, the band give a compelling performance, taking the ebb and flow of this piece in their stride. Oaagaada sit centrally in the ‘spiritual jazz’ camp. Whilst their first tune works effortlessly around a drone-like meditative sound, gradually building on a single theme, their second tune is much freer in nature, with some daring blowing from the horns bordering on the avant-garde.

“Lonna 2019” is my favourite release in this series so far. It’s an engaging mix of good old-fashioned no-nonsense jazz, with a liberally sprinkled dose of spiritual improv.

Mike Gates

Zen Zadravec ‘Human Revolution’ CD (Marmite) 5/5

Occasionally an album comes along that sums up what is great about jazz and simply sparkles with a zest for life. Pianist Zen Zadravec’s “Human Revolution” is one such album. Born in Canada, the 46-year-old jazz pianist, saxophonist and composer is something of a musical chameleon. Whether it’s jazz, R&B, funk, rock or pop, he plays each with a freshness and verve not often heard in any of these genres. His goal is to create music based on human experience, absorbing as much music as possible to develop through the lens of Humanism based on the philosophies of Buddhism. Ultimately, with this release, Zadravec has succeeded in making music that inspires, encourages and touches the heart, taking the listener with him on an extremely rewarding journey.

Contributing alongside the pianist for this session are Todd Bashore on alto and soprano saxes, Derrick Gardner on trumpet, Kenny Davis on bass and Mark Whitfield Jr. on drums. There are also guest appearances from John Douglas (trumpet), Mike Pope (bass) and Dylan Bell (vocals). The quality of the musicianship throughout the entire recording is stunning. With Zadravec at the helm, the band shine a brilliant light on everything that’s so enjoyable about this album, its compositions and the performances given by everyone involved.

Eight tunes, mostly originals, grace this wonderful album. Inspired by the music of Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and Joe Henderson, “The Nature Of All Things” features some inspired soloing throughout, swinging fiercely with post-bop and Latin influences. “Mentor Disciple” is hard-hitting and benefits from a luxurious intensity as it glides and cascades with a beautiful freedom of collaborative spirit. The gorgeous “Jamiliah”, representing a husband’s love for his wife and best friend, along with the punchy and vibrant “Live!”, both feature the wonderful jazz vocals of Dylan Bell, adding glorious depth and lyricism to these two compositions. The undeniable awesomeness of “Climb” features incredible solos from trumpeter Gardner and saxophonist Bashore. This is such a strong piece of writing from Zadravec, and the two horn players really do it justice, enhancing the piece with their spellbinding contributions. The more introspective “Lilies and Roses” delves into another side of the composer’s influences; Kenny Kirkland. The title track “Human Revolution” is a brilliant composition, taking chances melodically, harmonically and rhythmically to produce a gem of a song. It flies with a surging magnificence, much like a person feeling the rewards of growing on a personal level. Mal Waldren’s “Soul Eyes” illustrates the influence of Kenny Barron’s musical mentorship, showcasing once again performances from Bashore and Gardner, along with the pianist himself. One very minor point, in the scheme of things barely worth mentioning, is that on this particular tune, I do wish someone would remind the saxophonist that sometimes less is more… but given his phenomenal performances throughout the rest of the album, all can be forgiven!

Great jazz can sound simple. Great jazz can sound complex. But sometimes you just don’t need to delve too much into the whys and wherefores, you just need to enjoy the ride. And that’s how I feel about this album. You can sit back, turn the volume up, and be blown away by what you’re listening to. The music is emotive, powerful and highly entertaining. Sometimes that’s everything you could want for, and all that you need.

Mike Gates

Tenderlonious ‘Quarantena’ LP/CD (22a Music) 5/5

‘Quartena’ is a solo lockdown album from the very prolific Tenderlonious, the London based musician, producer, DJ and record label owner and bandleader for the excellent Ruby Rushton. Like many during the pandemic, creativity has been one of the few pluses, with numerous Tenderlonious releases during 2020 and with this project moving slightly away from the spiritual jazz, bebop and afrobeat influences from many previous releases and heading towards into a more electronic and cinematic framework.

The album begins with ‘1984 (Chapter One)’, an introductory piece and pre-cursor to the rest of the album with its Vangelis-like synth patches and public announcement recordings, mixed with sweeping pads and evolving spatial effects. ‘Rocco’s Raga’ possesses a sparse rhythm with added marimba and mesmerising flute touches helping to maintain its soundtrack quality. The title track uses a spacious drum machine groove (maybe a Roland TR-606), which leaves loads of room for an immaculate trumpet solo from fellow 22a contributor Nick Walters while the synth chords and melody resonate throughout the duration of the piece.

‘Falkor’s Flight’ is a short, drum less composition of less than two minutes but is then followed by ‘Lockdown Blues’, which has an almost 2000 Black quality and could have been produced by Dego and Kaidi Tatham with its bubbling drum machines patterns, jittery chords and solid bassline, while flute and synth solos perfectly jump over the rhythm track. ‘Covid Blues’ again features Nick Walters on trumpet while synth-heavy ‘Total Recall’ is possibly an ode to the ‘80s film of the same name.

‘Moment’s Notice’ is another short composition (five tracks on the album clock in at under three minutes) and again makes great use of a drum machine, here the Roland TR707, as does ‘Birds of Paradise’ but with a reduced tempo. ‘MaskUP_GloveUP’ moves into mild broken beat territory with its thick Moog-type free-flowing bassline and another set of flute and synthesiser solos, adding a great layer to the composition. And finally, ‘Forty Nights’ invokes images of late night cityscapes with its glacial synths and atmospheric aura.

Classifying ‘Quarantena’ as a ‘lockdown’ album is somewhat unfair as one feels that we will return to this long after the lockdown has ceased, especially as this is unlike anything coming out of the UK jazz scene right now. It utilises many disparate influences, such as early 80s Japanese jazz, synth-based soundtracks, UK street soul instrumentals and jazz improvisation.

I would argue that Tenderlonious is possibly one step ahead of many of his contemporaries, specifically, many of the young UK jazz musicians. Maybe it’s due to his production background or his interest in music outside of the jazz paradigm. But nonetheless, the is quite a unique record and was definitely unexpected.

Damian Wilkes

Read also:
Tenderlonious ‘The Piccolo: TENDER plays TUBBY’ EP/CD (Jazz Detective) 5/5

David Boswell ‘The Story Behind The Story’ CD (My Quiet Moon) 4/5

I’d like to share with you a little story. When I was a fresh-faced 17 year old, (yes, it was a long time ago), trying to find my way into the world of music as a budding singer-songwriter, I managed to get a decent support spot at one of the UK’s most popular folk and acoustic venues of that time. The place was packed out (the good old days eh…), and I’d only been performing live for a year or so, having written a dozen or so original songs. On stage that night I was buzzing. It felt amazing. It felt like I had found my place in the world and my reason to be. As I finished my last tune, the audience reaction was incredible. They loved it. They loved me. I was going to be a star. No question.

As I walked from the stage there were so many people from the audience coming up to me asking where I was playing next, had I got an album out yet, did I need a manager, etc., etc. All incredibly positive stuff. As you can imagine I was on cloud 9. As I walked to the back of the room to put my guitar back in its case, the venue owner and promoter tapped me on the shoulder. “Mike” he said, towering over me, “Don’t ever come back to me asking if you can play here again.” I was shocked. After the wonderful response from the audience, I actually thought he was joking. Then he said “Throw your guitar away. Start again. You’re a fucking charlatan. An imposter. A copy-cat. You might have an Ovation guitar and write songs like Roy Harper, but you’re not fucking Roy Harper. So stop trying to sound like him. Find your own voice and ring me in 10 years when you have.” Harsh. And at the time especially difficult to take. But… mostly true despite the ferocity of his tone and manner. Roy Harper was my idol. And as my major influence when beginning to write my own songs, yes, I did almost inevitably sound a little like him. We all have to start somewhere, and it didn’t take me long to develop my own sound and style as I progressed. Why am I telling you this I hear you ask? Well, whilst listening to this new album from David Boswell, I realised I was starting to ask the same question of this release that I asked myself all those years ago; Does it matter if you sound, quite obviously, like somebody else, as long as the audience enjoys it? Now that may sound like a simple question, but actually there isn’t a simple answer. At my gig, would you have been with the audience, or with the promoter? One can make arguments from both viewpoints, and ultimately I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer. In the case of this album, David Boswell’s The Story Behind The Story, it is impossible to review without saying this first; it sounds exactly like a Pat Metheny album. Personally I’m a huge Pat Metheny fan so that’s no bad thing for me. But when I say ‘exactly’ like a Pat Metheny album, that really isn’t far off the truth. Boswell’s style of writing, the performances, the arrangements, his acoustic guitar sound, his guitar synth sound, the production… need I go on? Being a huge Metheny fan I could even pinpoint each Boswell composition as “this could be Metheny track A, from so-and-so album”… but I won’t. And why should I? All musicians take influences from a whole myriad of musical styles, genres, and revered musicians. And like my younger self, writing songs that were influenced by Roy Harper, David Boswell has crafted an album of beauty and musical wonder… songs that sound like they’re written from the heart, with adventure, spirit, meaning. Songs that sound rather like Pat Metheny…

So now that I’ve got that off my chest, let’s talk about some mighty fine music that I’m listening to at the moment. David Boswell’s “The story behind the story” is an uplifting slice of acoustic jazz at its best. This is the guitarist’s sixth release in a series of refreshingly melodic and adventurous albums. Boswell leads an excellent group of musicians including Scott Kinsey, Mitchel Forman, Bart Samolis, Jimmy Haslip, MB Gordy, Gary Novak and Andy Snitzer. At its core, this is an intoxicating mix of contemporary jazz, with attractive melodies, group interaction and superb soloing, especially from the guitarist himself. There are many highlights throughout this set. “A Los Angeles Minute” is one of the most well-rounded, complete and compelling pieces of music you’ll hear all year. There’s an energy to this tune that is life-affirming. Creative and beautifully performed, one can’t fail to be impressed by its natural warmth and adventurous spirit. “Innocence” has a wistful yet quietly haunting melody, like a long-lost memory that gradually returns to its owner. The title track is another gorgeous piece, building up throughout the tune and climaxing in an epic, celebratory fashion. The lovely “Miraculous” echoes a tribute to the people who made deep impressions in the composer’s life. And the brief yet heartfelt ballad “Prayer for the planet” precedes the wonderfully infectious “Alta”, and the suitably romantic “The Wind In Her Hair”. Another of my favourites “Los Olivos” shows a slightly different light to the guitarist’s compositional style, as does the more commercial-sounding “The Sun And The Moon”. From start to finish we get great arrangements, group interaction, style and substance from all of the musicians involved. Not surprisingly though, it is the guitarist that stands out. His playing is impeccable, whether he’s producing sweet, subtle acoustic textures, clearly defined melodies, beautifully crafted solos, or ramping it up with that classic guitar synth sound. All-in-all, a very enjoyable set that leaves the listener wanting more.

“The Story Behind The Story” is a lovely, heart-warming, uplifting, musical album. Perhaps the best compliment I can pay guitarist Boswell, is that Pat Metheny would probably be proud of some of the music written and performed here.

Mike Gates

Dave Stryker with Bob Mintzer and the WDR Big Band ‘Blue Soul’ CD (Strikezone) 5/5

Dave Stryker is certainly a musician deserving of wider recognition. In my opinion, his is amongst the best contemporary jazz guitarists currently active. Alongside this he is also an accomplished composer and educator.

Over the years he has worked with Stanley Turrentine, Jack McDuff and more. He has 30 CDs as a leader under his belt and I think that fellow guitarist Pat Metheny hit the nail on head when he claimed that Stryker has “one of the most joyous feels around”. It is this innate musical accessibility that draws me to his work. This latest release is no exception and Mintzer and the Big Band are an added bonus.

I’m not alone in expressing my enjoyment for this album as it has recently achieved the top position in the JazzWeek Radio chart and has been there for some weeks. Previous albums have also achieved pole position in the same chart, so he’s definitely no “one hit wonder”.

Early experience with organist Jack McDuff in the mid-1980s proved invaluable for him. A nine-year tenure with saxophonist Stanley Turrentine followed. Later in 2015 the guitarist recorded ‘Messin’ with Mister T’ a tribute featuring his former boss. The previous year saw the release of ‘Eight Track’ which celebrated classic pop tunes of the 1970s played by his regular organ trio supplemented by Stefon Harris on vibraphone.

‘Eight Track II’ and ‘Eight Track III’ were to follow utilising the same formula. This present recording is not that far removed in terms of repertoire as some of the 1970’s pop anthems reappear here, arranged by Mintzer for the big band. Add to the mix some Stryker originals and what’s not to like.

Mintzer is probably best known as a member of the Grammy award-winning Yellowjackets, but he has also led his own big band and since 2014 has been Chief Conductor of the WDR Big Band in Cologne. The WDR Big Band has a history going back to 1946 and are musical ambassadors promoting jazz and culture at home and around the world.
It’s important to note that Mintzer is featured on three tracks only. The album opens with ‘Trouble Man’ written by Marvin Gaye and alongside Stryker, we get to hear from Billy Test on organ. The Gaye classic ‘What’s going On’ is featured elsewhere with more fine organ work and alto saxophone. ‘When Doves Fly’ from Prince includes more alto saxophone and a drum feature together with more fine work from Stryker. Jimmy Webb’s ‘Wichita Lineman’ is a feature for trombone and guitar. The album concludes with Turrentine’s ‘Stan’s Shuffle’ displaying more fine work from Mintzer.

As with Stryker’s previous releases, this is a highly entertaining set of contrasting and well-paced pieces.

The guitarist produced three Eight Track volumes and so there is clearly more than enough material for another outing from Mintzer and the Big Band.

Alan Musson

Read also:
The Stryker/Slagle Band Expanded ‘Routes’ CD (Strikezone) 4/5
Dave Stryker ‘Eight Track III’ CD (Strikezone) 5/5
Dave Stryker ‘Eight Track II’ CD (Strikezone) 5/5
Dave Stryker ‘Strykin’ Ahead’ CD (Strikezone) 5/5

Otis Sandsjö ‘Y-OTIS 2’ LP/CD (We Jazz) 5/5

Saxophonist Otis Sandsjö releases his new album ‘Y-OTIS 2’ through Helsinki’s revered We Jazz record label. And the fact that ‘Y-OTIS 2’ marks only the second solo album for the Swedish, but now Berlin-based, musician seems somewhat surprising when you consider how many bands and projects that Sandsjö has been a part of as an indispensable contributor. Sandsjö’s debut album, ‘Y-OTIS’, was only released two years prior (2018, again through We Jazz) and work since then has continued to be consistent. Appearing as part of the line-up for drummer Christian Lilinger’s ‘The Meinl Session’, Sandsjö also appeared on two songs for Matt Calvert’s ‘Typewritten’, and then, of course, there’s his erstwhile contributions to Petter Eldh’s Koma Saxo project which sits incredibly high amongst We Jazz albums having only been released in 2019.

The chemistry between Sandsjö and bassist Eldh warrants special mention as their incredible collaborations have really birthed some fantastic music. With Eldh serving as the producer, as well as bassist for the ensemble, for ‘Y-OTIS’ and ‘Y-OTIS 2’, Koma Saxo really serves as an awesome extension to the groundwork masterfully laid out through Sandsjö’s debut. Eldh’s impassioned production across all three projects – heavily inspired by his love of 1990s hip-hop and groups like A Tribe Called Quest – has really found the perfect partner in Sandsjö. So much so that this two man band deliver an outstanding backing to vocalist Lucia Cadotsch’s hauntingly brilliant and musically dynamic album, ‘Speak Low’ (2016).

For ‘Y-OTIS 2’, Sandsjö has assembled a well-versed and inspired band featuring a mix of returning members from the new album’s predecessor and other long-term collaborators. The core members of the band for ‘Y-OTIS 2’ are comprised of Eldh, drummer Tilo Weber (Clara Haberkamp Trio, David Friedman), keyboardist Dan Nicholls (Fofoulah, Gonimoblast), and featured players, flautists Jonas Kullhammar and Per “Texas” Johansson, trumpeter Ruhi-Deniz Erdogan and cellist Lucy Railton.

The music is as innovative and rebellious as past Sandsjö projects would suggest. Taking a song like ‘abysmal’ as an example which demonstrates its unique ability to feature so many different elements and components to its composition so early in the song but, at the same time, still succeeds in reinventing itself as the song progresses. The album masterfully incorporates subtle twinges of an electronic aesthetic throughout that is really brought to life through Nicholls’s synthesizers – see ‘koppom’ as an example of one of the album’s more trippy numbers, not looking past the glorious and unpredictable nature and energy of ‘bobby’.

Sandsjö has become so adept at knowing when to let his saxophone take the lead and when to let it play its part within the wonderful musicians he’s surrounded himself with. While Sandsjö is very much the star of the album, ‘Y-OTIS 2’ still serves as another triumph to the tag team of Eldh & Sandsjö leaving me incredibly keen to see what the pair will deliver on next.

Imran Mirza

Rymden ‘Space Sailors’ 2LP (Jazzland Recordings) 5/5

I love Rymden. So, unpredictably, I’m going to top and tail this review saying just how much I love Rymden. They enthral me with an easy rapport-building blend of power, wisdom, impish playfulness, prog earnestness, mind-bending musicianship and an improbably acute insight into the human condition. I’m sure they’d make great therapists (Gestalt); the sort who would confidently allow you to set the hourly rate. And their music is palpably “Music Made in Scandinavia”, which, I assume, is also part of their appeal to me.

With that first paragraph in mind, I guess the only question being posed here today is does the new album, “Space Sailors”, make me love Bugge Wesseltoft (keys), Dan Berglund (bass), Magnus Öström (drums) even more? Let’s see.

Berglund slaps down a distorted 25 or 6 to 4 bluesy bass riff to begin the trio’s narration of “The Life And Death Of Hugo Drax”. Öström anchors it with a chip pan rock beat and Wesseltoft briefly apes Berglund before some prog pixie frolicking then back into the riffing piano rock. Midway through we get a beautiful, swirling period of contemplation as ponderous Wesseltoft lines fleetingly hook and release. Then we’re back riffing and prog beasting the hell out of it to announce Drax’s demise. A variety-packed 4 minutes 43 seconds the experience of which was further enriched by it causing me to learn a new fact: ‘Moonraker’ is a, possibly pejorative, nickname for people from Wiltshire. Rymden inspire one to learn.

“The Space Sailor” is FUN. Pounding, high energy new wave drum and bass are mocked by giddy, angular keyboard. The atmosphere swells and bleeps and the sails billow, projecting us into a Bob Mortimer danceable Kraftwerk meets fusion space before, unexpectedly, the wind falls causing the sails to gradually slacken and the kraft to almost halt. The wind fortuitously returns, the sails extend again and the track picks up with even greater urgency than before, running to a self-satisfied abrupt end. Extraordinary.

A reflective space opens up via “Söndan”. A gently guiding, padding beat is embraced by Berglund’s paternal shapes as Wesseltoft floats free association melodies over their subtle empathy. Piano chords then deliver what, to me, is unfathomable; they speak of everything unspoken: love, fear, experiences, hope – all of it. Just a few piano chords…How can that be?

“Terminal One” grooves. It beats out a tik-tik-tik-tok yet still swaggers due to Berglund and Wesseltoft’s perfectly loose ‘n’ baggy story-telling delivery. Öström even breaks some fire beats yet it still swaggers on.

A perfectly pedalling NIN-ish metallic riff and a simple, evocative echoing piano motif makes “The Final Goodbye” a shifting, intense, irrevocable Godspeed. It has menace, authority, it’s not suffering fools, gladly or otherwise and it’s not here to play. “Pilgrimstad” feeds off that darker, insular mood; an intense Berglund-bowed solo poem to the home of Jämtlands Bryggeri beer.

“Arriving At Ramajay Part I” is short but epic, boldly building through Wesseltoft escalating patterns and chords, Berglund’s punctuation and Öström’s busyness.“Arriving At Ramajay Part II” initially has a foreboding synth pulse, a sinusoidal threat, however, a sky full of pervasive twinkles, pings and zaps offer glimmers of hope. There’s a brief touch of fusion Supertramp before an unexpected explosion of wonderfully filmic and upliftingly optimistic Jarre utopian spacefest. It then rests before firing up the engines again for another half-minute of excitement and a deft landing. And I thought Part I was epic.

“The Actor (Gonzo Goes To Pasadena)” is another throbber, more synth gallop this time, with Öström pushing, keeping it in-the-pocket tidy throughout. Wesseltoft stabs some slightly incongruous, slightly unnerving chords that are periodically, appeasingly anchored by a neat recurring 8 note motif. He then goes on an easy-tempered, eye-brow dancing, stroll with the Wurlitzer (or Rhodes? I can’t tell but, again, there’s something Supertrampy about it so…) before an energised, stuttering build to end.

Wesseltoft’s enchantingly pure melodies are so limpid, so emotive, so reflective in “My Life In A Mirror”. Initially only Berglund’s guttural bowed bass offers augmentation but as the piano grows more raw and insistent the quiet is filled with a mobilising structure on which piano and voice can now soar; free, purposeful and resolved.

And soaring is exactly what “Free As A Bird” does. Wesseltoft’s repeating piano pattern and Öström’s tightness let Berglund fly over land and sea with his synthy bow before Wesseltoft’s extensive, winsome Starcastle solo allows Öström to finally open his shoulders a bit too, which is always a good thing. “Söndan Outro” outs things and is another opportunity to be caressed by “Söndan”.

“Space Sailors” is a deeply immersive experience. Its accomplished, wide-ranging dynamic shifts of mood and sonics ensure there’s never a dull moment. Riveting performances from start to finish. Also, remarkably (given their combined experience), they’ve grown as a trio. They seem more confident; more prepared to try different things but also happier to do the simple, effective things. So there’s an easy answer to the question I posed earlier. Does “Space Sailors” make me love Rymden even more? Yes. Yes, it does.

Ian Ward

Read also:
Rymden ‘Reflections and Odysseys’ 2LP/CD (Jazzland Recordings) 5/5

Martin Rude & Jakob Skøtt Duo ‘The Discipline of Assent’ LP (El Paraiso) 4/5

The Discipline of Assent is the product of an epic jam session in early March this year at the end of a Causa Sui recording schedule. All this goodness was then tailored into these tracks with added studio effects, etc. The duo obviously consists of Jakob Skøtt, the drummer of the aforementioned instrumental psych-rockers Causa Sui, also co-chief of El Paraiso records and Martin Rude of label-mates, the folkier Sun River. Jakob is also the drummer of Martin’s band so they’re all family!

“Flails & Strands” is a good start. It immediately bursts into a hard bop double bass/drums groove with space-age ephemera of strobe beam synths, ambient radio-waves and chiming obscure percussive effects. There’s more space for the double bass, also maybe slight menace in “A New Arrival”. It swings looser and has a more improvisational feel with the swirling electronics adding a droning effect. On “Aurelius Dye”, the electric guitar arpeggios and slides coil around the humming electronic bass and more rockier drum beat. The drums swagger against bursts of double bass on “Setenta y Tres” with manic, busy electronic effects and percussion adding colour. “Sequoia Sketch” has a laid back, slightly melancholy beauty vaguely reminiscent of the instrumental part of Hendrix’s ‘1983… (A Merman I Should Turn To Be)’.

“The Slip“ is edgy excellence; hard abstract electronics give a claustrophobic feel against the stop-start rhythm. “The Short Sun” has a droney slightly folky feel; finger picking guitar and soaring keyboard sounds over throbbing bass. On “Random Treasures”, for once, the electronic filagree is actually a bit of a distraction against the more interesting rhythm section work. The grand finale is “Mountain Montage”, an 11 minute epic of blissed-out sun-baked raga-rock. As the track slowly uncoils and quickens, the engaging guitar interacts with swirling atmospheric flute sounds.

The music here spans from bustling jazz rhythm section work-outs with abstract sounds to laid-back electric psychedelic jams. Generally, the difference is whether Rude is playing double bass or guitar so you can actually see the join. This is not a problem however as the album does have coherence with good quality performances and an expert curation of the output from that day in March.

Kevin Ward