Grand Line
Nakama Records NKM 004 CD

Dedicated to communal creation with a compositional basis, Japanese-Norwegian Nakama has set out to forge a unique musical path. Notwithstanding the exemplary sounds illustrated on this CD by the Oslo-based quartet, like young novelists publishing early works, these seven tracks are located in the literature which includes the New York School’s aleatory concepts and Anthony Braxton’s interchangeable score sequences. Certain textures correspond sonically to the French New novel where the sophistication of the fragments is more valued than any conclusion.

Like museum goers who can savor the effect of a hard-edged or drip-style painting without knowing of the theory behind its creation, Grand Line can be enjoyed without dealing with jargon. After all, Nakama’s members are veterans of more modern Jazz-oriented bands. Bassist Christian Meaas Svendsen and drummer Andreas Wildhagen are part of Paal Nilssen-Love's Large Unit; Adrian Løseth Waade has been in the Trondheim Jazz-Orchestra; and pianist Ayumi Tanaka has her own trio with Svendsen,

In more than length – almost 29 minutes – “Doremingo + Taiko__Grand Line”, the CD’s first track is also the most representative of Svendsen’s compositional theories, although there are times like an delivery truck, overloaded with parcels on one side, it lists a little too closely to pure chamber music. What liberates the piece though, are speedy keyboard splashes that characterize the piano’s main sequences that regularly pops up throughout the program as a linking leitmotif. Besides this the admixture of musical composition and form composition plus improvisation means that like something viewed through a kaleidoscope the emphasis and execution depends on the angle of creation. That means exposure of piano motifs ranging from romantic to rhythmic as well as soundboard echoes; drum beats that are loud wallops or barely discernible; glissandi, dripping like water-soaked leaves or a rumbling continuum from the double bassist; plus high-pitched spiccato and triple-stopping from the violinist. Sometimes Waade and Svendsen use unexpected string pumps to connect with piano keys dampened at the speaking frame to create a pyramid of layered textures. Yet no matter how busy the narrative becomes the re-occurrence leitmotif maintains its forward motion. Eventually, with the connective device sensed even when it’s not audible, a combination of prolonged silences and braked tones relax the piece into turtle-like speed and eventual disappearance.

Like non-aligned countries selecting parts of political systems that best fit their needs, other track adapt modifications of the concepts advanced on the first selection. “Kusama__Events” for instance is worked up from an adagio piano/bass intersection and extended silences and extended into galloping drum pops and pizzicato slaps from violin and double bass. With its low frequency formality from the pianist and single violin strokes “The Sun__Uzumaki” is the closest to so-called classical chamber music. Meanwhile swinging back-and-forth between treble-pitched high-frequency keyboard tones, Rock band=worthy string-grating fiddling, a Native Indian-like tom-tom rebound, a talking drum display and double bass thumping makes “Tsunagari__Split & Curve” the most overtly Jazzy of the tunes.

Related to the first in dynamism if not direction, the concluding “Daily Choices__Metro” defines its daily choices in the form of delayed gratification. Wiggling and slapped strings, hammered drums, bouncy piano ripples, all segmented by extended pauses distend the narrative like an inventive child working with plasticine, producing variables in pitch and tension, abruptly suspending the interface and then showcasing the theme once more as a finale.

In the process of maturation Nakama may not live up to the “grand” part of this CD’s title. But during its 71-minute creation, the foursome has come up with enough Grade A music to galvanize most listeners.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Doremingo + Taiko__Grand Line 2. The Sun__Uzumaki 3. Nanika__Decks 4. Tsunagari__Split & Curve 5. Kusama__Events 6. Suffering feat. Daily Choices Fail Compilation 7. Daily Choices__Metro

Personnel: Ayumi Tanaka (piano); Adrian Løseth Waade (violin); Christian Meaas Svendsen (bass) and Andreas Wildhagen (drums)