Je Suis!

Ça Va?
Umlaut Records UM CD 0019

All Included

Satan in Plain Clothes

Clean Feed CF 328 CD

Testimony to the unquestioned maturity of Scandinavian Jazz and Improvised music is the number of youngish improvisers on the scene both in Europe and overseas. Case in point is Stockholm-based trombonist Mats Äleklint, who brings a rugged scope and agile resilience to his solo and section work. Someone who has played in bands as disparate as The Thing XXL and with Carla Bley and Steve Swallow, Äleklint is not only the link between the groups here, but ups the excitement factor each time he solos.

On its own, each session is high-quality as well. Ça Va is Je Suis’ second CD, and finds the band, directed by Swedish trumpeter Niklas Barnö, amplifying its commanding presence. Filled out by saxophonist Marcelo Gabard Pazos, pianist Alexander Zethson, bassist Joel Grip and drummer Magnus Vikberg, the group displays a contemporary command of Free Jazz and Free Bop elements with some excursions into churchy Mingus-styled anthems. Led by veteran Swedish saxophonist Martin Küchen, who has been involved in all sorts of Free Music with the likes of Martin Klapper, Birgit Ulher and Keith Rowe, the five-piece All Included is merely one of the saxophonist’s many groups. However it’s also one of the most exciting since a piano-less format apparently allows for more free-form soloing, with three horns –trumpeter Thomas Johansson is the third – available to articulate wind-like velocity in its solos, while the fused tag-team rhythms of bassist Jon Rune Strøm and drummer Tollef Østvang further propelling textural integration. As an aide, a newer configuration of All Included finds Barnö in Johansson’s chair,

With a firm grasp of keyboard elements, succinctly demonstrated on his showcase, “Se och Hör”, pianist Zethson never retards the chromatic line as he welcomes both European so-called classical inflections as well as thundering boogie-fied directions. If anything he’s most valuable in a bridging role, serving up backseat driver-like commands, even as he partners individual horn players. Incongruously enough this role is articulated on tunes with widely separate origins. Painted in Gil Evans-like pastels, “Åt alla håll på samma gang” finds the piano as the anchor as the horns and rhythm section expose all manner of tinctures and smears, with snorts and slurps from Äleklint and Pazos on baritone giving way to gospel-like keyboard embellishments on Barnö’s forceful high note concentration that could give Maynard Ferguson pause. This Gabriel-like stance on the trumpeter’s part keeps the intensity boiling on “Ända in i Kaklet’, with Zethson, Pazos and Äleklint riffing like Horace Parlan, Pepper Adams and Jimmy Kmepper in a Mingus-styled arrangement. With all the instruments chasing one another like foxes-and-hounds, on this live date, there’s also ample space for Äleklint to do what he does best: buzz plunger responses to other horns’ challenges or in contrast, sew together a mellow continuum out of an exposition of blurts, blares and babbles.

He has even more scope on Satan in Plain Clothes since the lack of chordal instrument allows the quintet to operate in a more dynamic fashion, slamming together high-stepping tempos and discursions that suggest the linkage between Kid Ory’s Creole Jazz Band and Albert Ayler’s bands. Cast in the Ory – or perhaps Roswell Rudd – role, Äleklint maintains declarative slide timbres from his first elephant-like bellows on “Tune for Martin” all the way to the tremolo, bass-inflected melody he superimposes on top of the march which is the title tune. There’s also a detour into lachrymose emotional sobs on “I've Been Lied To”. Less outwardly frenetic in his playing than Barnö, Johansson usually favors slower tempos and uses his mutes a lot more. That leaves the whinnying trombone and Küchen’s dramatic tongue-stretching slurs and smears to color the pieces. Additionally, since Rune Strøm and Østvang together excel in holding the beat firmly, no matter the circumstances, slower cadences are dealt with as easily as brighter lines such as “The Gap” and “Despair Is in the Air”. The most Boppish with Østvang dropping bass drum bombs as if he was Kenny Clarke, the former tune slides in-and-out of focus as Äleklint strangled slurs and staccato barks challenge Küchen’s strained altissimo. Seemingly always on the brink of going out of control, “Despair Is in the Air” features textural agitation that prickle like a series of insect bites, its climax features the three horns improvising in close contact, but with parallel not unison lines.

Jubilant as a Second Line celebration without compromising its modernity, this quintet session could hardly be improved on. Neither could Ça Va? The answer to the French question as to where each of these bands is going is probably upwards and further. And the same could likely be said about Äleklint’s prospects.

—KenWaxman

Track Listing: Satan: 1. Tune for Martin 2. I've Been Lied To 3. The Gap 4. Despair Is in the Air 5. Three Courses 6. Satan in Plain Clothes

Personnel: Satan: Thomas Johansson (trumpet); Mats Äleklint (trombone); Martin Küchen (alto and baritone saxophones); Jon Rune Strøm (bass) and Tollef Østvang (drums)

Track Listing: Ça: 1. Bebopaluba 2. Ända in i Kaklet 3. Onödig stress 4. Idioti? Tackarrr! 5. Åt alla håll på samma gång 6. Se och Hör

Personnel: Ça: Niklas Barnö (trumpet); Mats Äleklint (trombone); Marcelo Gabard Pazos (alto and baritone saxophones); Alexander Zethson (piano); Joel Grip (bass) and Magnus Vikberg (drums)