Stefan Wistrand & Peter Olsen

June 12, 2024

Duo (1977)
Einnicken Records ERA 2328

Septet Matchi Oul
Souffle Continue FFL085

Conventional Jazz history has it that the 1970s were a time when Fusion dominated the scene. Alongside were a few older conventional players barely holding on to a straight-ahead tradition that would lead to the ascendancy of the suit-wearing so called Young Lions. Despite this fanciful story, isolated musicians throughout the world kept playing a variant of creative music that experienced a revival by the 21st Century,

In Paris for instance Chilean pianist Manuel Villarroel had moved to Europe to explore contemporary sounds and by 1971, when Terremoto was recorded, he had organized an international septet to interpret his compositions that were firmly in the FreeBop vein. Even more remarkable in 1977 when jazz saxophonists and drummers were thought of as playing for example like Grover Washington Jr. and Billy Cobham, Swedes, saxophonist Stefan Wistrand and drummer Peter Olsen recorded a duo disc that could have comfortably fit within the New Thing flowering of the 1960s.

Consisting of Jamaican trumpeter Sonny Grey and Galic stylists trombonist William Treve, reed players/flutists Jean-François Sicard and Gérard Coppéré plus the Méchali brothers, bassist François and percussionist Jean-Louis, each member of the Villarroel septet has continued to play in freer or more conventional settings in the years since.

The ensemble’s skill and eclecticism is best demonstrated  on “Theme Z”. Stacked horn extrusions and broken-octave piano comping make up the polyphonic exposition, which quickly breaks up into alto saxophone squeaks and gutbucket trombone smears before attaining a horizontal groove. As arco double bass pacing and energetic piano clanks preserve the theme, flute peeps, brass puffs and the tenor saxist’s dot-dash interventions lead to a crescendo of elevated tones from the entire group.

One of the flutists usually commands the top line of the stacked horn harmonies, whether the narrative is stop-time, advanced swing, modal or in the case of the concluding “Relxin”, Afro Funk. With a jouncing flute lead, the rhythmic build up here is projected by Villarroel’s half-stride/half modal comping, reed bites and Grey’s emphasized triplets, until a gentling flute puff on top of horn harmonies relaxes the piece into horizontal motion. Elsewhere Treve’s plunger blasts and portamento brass work and Méchali’s double bass clanks make an impression.

The atmospheric and shaking “Micha” provides a change of pace. Intensified with thick bass thrusts, drum backbeats and unison brass playing, Sicard’s bass clarinet mewling is involved in a duet with looming, melodramatic chords from the pianist. Ending with sliding glissandi from both players the nearly oppressive theme returns as full band bluster.

Moving northwards and a few years into the future, the Swedish duo provides all the textures, tones and timbres needed to personify its disc divided into the 29¼ minute, five-part “Svit” and two shorter codas. To be honest the concluding tunes seem to be extension s of the free playing exhibited on “Svit” miniaturized and designed to show off each player’s individual talents. Also the divisions during “Svit” seem more in the duo’s thoughts than in designated transitions. Still active both Swedish players have been involved in other Jazz, Rock and Punk experiments since that time.

However that doesn’t prevent the program from suggesting an instance of this-side-of-ecstatic free playing with unbridled extensions from both players unrolling at the same pace. Initially constructed out of reed note bending that encompasses spetrofluctuation, smears, constant peeps and snarls as well as drum pops, rolls and smacks, the exposition solidifies at about the one-third point. This established, Olsen’s patterns and press rolls maintain linear evolution as Wistrand’s deflection towards variations of bagpipe-like drones and double-tonguing whorls break up the narrative but without disrupting its flow. A final turn from alto to soprano saxophone story telling moves the joint narrative up the scale until the track fades.

Isolated invention in a scene that was heading towards complacency and commercialism, valiant instances of creativity like these preserved slices of innovative music until its recognition as part of the tradition could once again be confirmed.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Terremoto: 1. Parisonophobie 2. Micha 3. Theme Z 4. Brack 5. Amma 6. Terronesia 7. Relxin

Personnel: Terremoto: Sonny Grey (trumpet); William Treve (trombone); Jean-François Sicard (alto saxophone, flute and bass clarinet); Gérard Coppéré (tenor saxophone and flute); Manuel Villarroel (piano); François Méchali (bass) and Jean-Louis Méchali (drums and vibraphone)

Track Listing: Duo: 1.  Svit a) Fanfarer b) Det fria, det gamla c) Kampanjgaloppen d) Till e) Uppbrott 2.  Stack-a-too 3.  Is-is

Personnel: Duo: Stefan Wistrand (alto and soprano saxophone) and Peter Olsen (drums)