Superposition ‘Superposition’ LP/CD (We Jazz) 4/5

Adele Sauros, tenor saxophone, Linda Fredriksson, alto and baritone saxophone, Mikael Saastamoinen, bass Olavi Louhivuori, drums

Tracklisting LP: 1. Antiplace, 2. Bilawal 3. Ballad No. 3 4. Mimo 5. Choral 6. Wasteland 7. For The Fallen 8. March

Olavi Louhivuori is one of Europe’s most compelling drummers. Often a stillness at the heart of the maelstrom, he has the look of an aesthete, with his pale, shaved head and otherworldly visage. He’s one of the key figures on the young Finnish scene (though he seems to have been around for ages) with his various jazz and rock groups, including the cinematically proggy Oddarrang. He’s also held down the drum seat for ECM star Thomasz Stanko. His new project, Superposition, alongside Linda Fredriksson from the excellent Mopo, and two artists new to me, Adele Sauros on tenor and Mikael Saastamoinen, bass is, on first listening, a fresh, immediate take on the free jazz small group sound of the 60s, and none the worse for that. However, the writing – primarily by Louhivuori – elevates this little gem into a much more contemporary statement.

The twin-sax attack has been intermittently popular on the new Euro jazz scene since Polar Bear and Led Bib blasted into our consciousness too many years ago to bear thinking about. The format allows for a great deal of freedom for the saxes, untied down by the chordal strictures of keys, and from the off Superposition take advantage, a fierce opening statement by Frederiksson on the short opener Antiplace (composed by Saastamoinen) leading to intertwined lines reminiscent of half-a-saxophone quartet, or a loose Jimmy Giuffre.

On the appropriately titled Ballad No 3 the group introduce a sonority and stateliness which is recognisable to those who know Olavi’s work, and also speaks to the moody beauty we’ve come to expect from the Scandinavians. It’s a tasty palate cleanser and a beautiful tune in its own right.

The contrasts between the three saxes – alto, tenor and baritone – are also cleverly exploited, particularly on Miimo, set against minimalist percussion, and on the opening of Choral; there is a choir-like polyphony in the house. For a quartet, Superposition make a full spectrum sound, and they use the resources available to them intelligently with Adele Sauros creating a counterpoint to Fredriksson’s pointillism. Olavi’s cinematic sensibilities come to the fore with Wasteland which could be the theme to a film noir. His delicate cymbal work and rippling accompaniment keep the record moving at all times, and Saastamoinen’s unfussy bass lines are effective.

Helsinki’s We Jazz label (it’s also a DJ co-operative, a festival, gig promoter and newspaper) has gone from strength to strength in recent years, from releasing tasty but limited 7” singles to making waves internationally. Here they’ve played to their strengths, with a brilliant young local band marshalled by two stars in the Finnish firmament making a statement of intent. When we come through this I hope we’ll get to see them on tour. It’s a positive thought to hold on to.

Mike Gavin