Formo Tre & Metall

Amor & Labor
Particular Recordings P14

The Ståhl Trio

Jag Skulle Bara Gå Ut

Moserobie Music Productions MMPCD0087

During the 1950s and 1960s, West Coast Jazz made wide inroads throughout Scandinavia and neighboring West Germany and left a lasting if submerged influence on subsequent improvisers. All of which means that the Swedish and Norwegian-based players featured on these cheerful and easy going CDs may have antecedents in the Cool School whether they realize it at not. This isn’t a knock either. Improvised music doesn’t have to ponderous and angst-ridden to be serious and memorable – as Amor & Labor plus Jag Skulle Bara Gå Ut amply corroborate.

The linkage between the two dates is Stockholm-based vibraphone player Mattias Ståhl. The vibist who has worked with the likes of trumpeter Marcus Broo and saxophonist Alberto Pinton has a buoyant touch even when using many mallets. His originality isn’t compromised even with the realization that the presentation of reeds, keyboard, vibes and drums by Formo Tre & Metall could be related to reedist Paul Horn’s sessions with vibist Emil Richards, while The Ståhl trio’s CD could be a date by vibraphonist Victor Feldman like The Arrival Of, backed by bass and drums.

Californians like Gerry Wiggins – with saxophonist Teddy Edwards – worked out a less heavy-handed approach to the organ keyboard, which Trondheim-based dual keyboardist Daniel Formo may have intuited. Formo, whose associates have ranged from Canadian saxophonist Seamus Blake to German bass clarinetist Rudi Mahall, is an innovative organ soloist whose nine compositions demonstrate that he isn’t afraid of graceful lightness. Ståhl’s own CD is no less nimble with its collection of Jazz originals and Pop-like covers bookended by Duke Ellington’s “The Mooche” and Sun Ra “Satellites Are Spinning”. The other Stockholm-based musicians include drummer Christopher Cantillo plus Vancouver-born bassist Joe Williamson. Formo’s other associates are Swedish drummer Erik Nylander, and Norwegian Erik Hegdal, who like Horn and other West Coast polymaths, plays various reeds; in his case C-melody saxophone, clarinet and bass clarinet.

Multi-reedist Horn and Buddy Collette were part of the innovative Chico Hamilton Quintet, and while that drummer never used an organ, his taste and finesse were legendary; similar qualities are exhibited by Nylander on this date. Direct and diffident, the drummer keeps the beat steady and swinging and stays out of the way. Meanwhile Hegdal shows his mastery of all three horns, exhibiting saxophone split tones and honks when uniting with tremolo organ judders on a tune such as “Revolution!” or working out slippery clarinet trills that perfectly meld with jittery organ slurs and vibraphone pops on “Kaleidofon”. The three front-line instruments often swing with easy grace as they’re stacked and balanced throughout. “Conversation of Trees”, for instance, a slower-paced line shows that blended organ and clarinet can designate romance; whereas elsewhere there are numerous instances where the instruments’ tougher, more atonal sides are showcased.

Notable throughout, with judiciously expressed pops and jangles, the vibist’s most exciting solo comes on the final “Kling Klang” with runs that sound half like a rhythmically sophisticated typewriter and half like “Now’s The Time”. There’s even room for reed tongue-stopping, plus some crisp drum accents and organ pumps.

Leader of his own CD, the title of which translates as “I Would Just Go Out”, Ståhl continues with his substantive buoyancy. Almost from the first notes of “The Mooche” something out-of-the-ordinary happens as shuffle drumming à la Sonny Greer is matched with celesta-like elaboration of the theme from the vibist – subtly sabotaged by Williamson’s scratching strings. All the stands are knit by the finale which also maintains the integrity of tune.

This catch-as-can sense of the dramatic infuses the CD’s 10 selections. Other interpretations range from a lightweight cowbell-and-claves Latin number to a 1970s Swedish pop-boogaloo plus pseudo Blues. There’s also “Undervattensvals (From Bamse)” where powerful cross-pumping from Williamson suggests a 1950s TV Cop Show soundtrack, which come to think of it, were usually performed by West Coast jazz studio cats.

In contrast “Skobonka/The Healing Properties of the Orb Were Found to Be Exaggerated”, which despite its overwrought title, positions reed screeches and rim shots into a feel-good swinger, with echoes of both Christmas carols and ecclesiastical plainsong. Meanwhile double bass work is also perfectly balanced on Williamson’s “Formaldehyde”, which is more somber than the other tracks. With Ståhl’s quivering lines and an overall moderato tempo, it attains supper club-like sophistication without abandoning its links to bedrock jazz and swing.

All and all, singly and together, these CDs confirm Ståhl’s skill as sideman and leader, with a novel take on his instrument.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Amor: 1. Revolution! 2. In the Woods 3. Idle 4. Politisk Jazz 5. Tankefuol 6. Kaleidofon 7. Conversation of Trees 8. Partipolitisk Jazz 9. Kling Klang.

Personnel: Amor: Erik Hegdal (C-melody saxophone, clarinet and bass clarinet); Daniel Formo (Hammond B3 organ); Mattias Ståhl (vibraphone) and Erik Nylander (drums)

Track Listing: Jag: 1. The Mooche 2. Sonny Boy Williamson 3. Did You Give The World Some Love Today, Baby 4. Formaldehyde 5. Skobonka/The Healing Properties Of The Orb Were Found To Be Exaggerated 6. Undervattensvals (From Bamse) 7. 10 augusti 8. The Siamese Twin 9. I Was Only Going Out 10. Satellites Are Spinning

Personnel: Jag: Mattias Ståhl (vibraphone); Joe Williamson (bass) and Christopher Cantillo (drums)