September 7, 2021
Lisa Ullén/Anna Högberg
Step Up a Second
With no need for superfluous arrangements, keyboardist Lisa Ullén and alto saxophonist Anna Högberg have created a compact program that advances progressively with space left for most of the 11 Swedish players to personify the sounds. In a performance that takes a little less than 33½ minutes, this is an appropriately sized ensemble from which members can step up to play for seconds or more
Högberg who played with Paal Nilssen-Love and Ullén, who has partnered Angharad Davies, define parameters with an introduction that squirms between reed peeps and whirls and keyboard jangles and single key picks, before Niklas Barnö’s trumpet flutters and Mats Äleklint’s trombone gushes announce an entire band sequence. Even so the tutti intrusion is more constricted than crescendo with horn whistles and slurs from brass and reed tones evolving alongside piano key clips. Only when Ullén and Sten Sandell feature continuous tremolo riffs from their harmoniums do contrapuntal horn parts including Per Texas Johansson’s split tone clarinet vibrations and banjo-like twangs from guitarist Finn Loxbo challenge the narrative. Slightly past the half-way mark, horn multiphonics are pushed aside with chunky piano dynamics that are half honky tonk and half Heavy Metal, especially when Ullén races up the scale at the same time as inner piano strings are plucked and stopped. Completed with swelling chords projected by the entire group, the narrative diminishes to collective peeps and squeaks, underlined by an almost unbreakable harmonium drone. Barely there vibrations define the final motif as disconnected shrills buzzes and squawks croak the sequence to silence.
Self contained without showiness, Step Up a Second is like the supposed perfect Swedish diet, nourishing with no extraneous fat.
Track Listing: 1. Step Up a Second
Personnel: Niklas Barnö (trumpet); Mats Äleklint (trombone); Anton Svanberg (tuba); Anna Högberg (alto saxophone); Per Texas Johansson (clarinets); Lisa Ullén (piano, harmonium); Sten Sandell (piano, harmonium, voice); Eva Lindal (violin); Finn Loxbo (guitar); Elsa Bergman (bass); Anna Lund (drums)