October 3, 2007
At Your Service
Expertly demolishing the shibboleth that Scandinavian Jazz is spongy or glacial, Sweden’s Exploding Customer ignites seven tracks here by blending the energy of the Jazz Messengers with the exuberance of the Shuffle Demons.
More tonally advanced then either of those bands, the quartet ladles out-of-ordinary timbres and extended technical flourishes onto their raucous merrymaking. Chief composer Martin Küchen, as comfortable with the grinding exhortations of noise bands as minimalist improvisation, often works a groove from A (Ayler) on tenor saxophone to D (Dolphy) on alto. Yet his pinched, squalling timbres have earlier antecedents: note the stuttering Lockjaw Davis-like honks and snorts on “Goodbye Smith Town” aptly backed by the hard-hitting backbeat of drummer Kjell Nordeson.
Part of the AALY trio with saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, the drummer stretches time as easily as he lays down shuffle rhythms. Meanwhile Benjamin Quigley’s bass keeps the proceedings grounded. Despite its bellicose title for instance, “Wars” is a lope, tugged in one direction by Küchen’s vocalized yowls and another by Quigley’s thumping stops. When it comes to vocalizing, the mercurial four aren’t adverse to a bit of slogan-chanting when the mood hits, although this too doesn’t compromise the overall program.
Trumpeter Tomas Hallonsten also exemplifies the band’s transformative skills. Capable of both Don Cherry-like dissonance and Rex Stewart reminiscent half-valve effects, he brings lyrical gravitas to the Spanish-tinged, practically liturgical “Els Segadors/Sin Nombre”. His sweet-salty dichotomy is also showcased on “The Supply and Demand of Love and Hate”, more than 12 minutes of slinky harmonic convergence. It features growling sputters or lyrical flourishes from Hallonsten, altissimo hocketing from Küchen and the rhythm section vibrating an andante beat.
No Ecstatic Jazz speed merchants, the Customers demonstrate that, unlike most retailers, their “at your service” is legit when framed as an improvised music listening experience.
— Ken Waxman
— For CODA Issue 335