Moserobie MMPCD 024

Mattias Ståhl could be an alchemist or a circus strong man. At least he appears to possess the alchemist power to transmogrify raw vibraphone metal into pliant plastic or the body builder’s the strength to bend it to his desires.

No matter the cause, the result is a flexible, upbeat style that has built his reputation in Sweden with the Seven Pieces band, saxophonist Fredrik Nordström’s quartet and his own combo featured here. Surrounded by a group of like-minded players SCHLACHTPLATTE is a pleasant, swinging outing that just misses first rank.

That happens not because of the playing, which is uniformly advanced, but because of the brevity and sameness of the tracks. While a CD of 12 individual tracks, mostly hovering at the three minute plus mark, is a change from nearly endless blowing sessions, there aren’t enough chances for the players to stretch out here. Plus with only four instruments, the potential for blending is limited. Adding Håkon Kornstad’s tenor saxophone on four tunes doesn’t resolve the situation, since his improvising blends with rather than contrasts with the others’ performances.

Practically the only exception to this is “Knivsöder”, the CD’s almost-six-minute most extended tack. Beginning with unison harmony between Ståhl’s four mallet vibraphone textures and one of the tenor saxophonists – Joakim Milder, who also plays soprano is the other reedist – the other saxman then enters with bottom feeding slurs as drummer Thomas Strønen subtly gooses the beat. As one saxophonist pecks and tongue slaps, the other bubbles shredded reed vibrations with Transesque coloration. Developing the theme in multi-counterpoint, climax is reached with a crescendo of contrapuntal reed textures and off-centre drum beats.

That’s the frustration involved with denying extensive space to the musicians. Besides Ståhl, each is a standout on the Scandinavian scene. Milder leads his own band, Kornstad has recorded with British bassist Barry Guy and the No Spaghetti Edition, while bassist Filip Augustson and Norwegian drummer Thomas Strønen are the rhythm section for Surd and other bands.

Milder gets his showcase on “Det Ska Kännas I Magen”, where repetitive chirrups and reedy torque combine into overblowing and spetrofluctuation on top of bell ringing, snare rumbles and single note vibe coloration. Then it’s Strønen’s turn on “Der Grüne Punkt” and “Muffathalle”. The former highlights his shuffle beat, while the later – a polyphonic near-canon, again featuring both saxes – shows off Latinesque rim shots, and interactive drum stick scratches on top of the ride cymbal.

Most of the time however, it’s Ståhl’s show. Although he exhibits a Milt Jackson-like chromatic romanticism at times, as on “Glockenspielen”, most of his work explodes in exciting portamento à la Terry Gibbs – usually prestissimo, sometimes fortissimo and always emotional.

He and his band mates have made a good impression with SCHLACHTPLATTE, but now it’s time for everyone to stretch out.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1.Harads 2. Glockenspielen 3. Der Grüne Punkt* 4. Knivsöder* 5. Estradören 6. Muffathalle* 7. Det Var Inte Jag Det Var Hasse Larsson 8. Revelj 9. Schlachtplatte* 10. Från Bussen 11. Det Ska Kännas I Magen 12. Tyst

Personnel: Joakim Milder (soprano and tenor saxophones); Håkon Kornstad (tenor saxophone)*; Mattias Ståhl (vibraphone); Filip Augustson (bass); Thomas Strønen (drums)