The Norwegian drummer is a familiar name from many albums by the Christian Walumrod Ensemble, with Trygve Seim, with Solveig Slettahjell and with The Source. With this Edition Records debut he gets to lead, and has pianist Helge Lien and saxophonist Torben Snekkestad in to form a trio.
The opening title track sets the tone beautifully. It might be called Let’s Dance but the dance in question is a stately, meandering, reflective one, with Johansen’s characteristic snare and cymbal figures and Lien’s carefully treading piano chords overset by Snekkestad’s very personal sound on soprano saxophone.
In fact there are times on this album when, so unusual are the sounds that Snekkestad gets from his instrument, you begin to ask questions. Is it a saxophone? Or a trumpet?
In fact it is Snekkestad’s very own personal take on the hybrd instrument that Eddie Harris invented in the 1970s: a specially made reed mouthpiece fitted to a trumpet. This reed trumpet, as Snekkestad calls it, brings a very distinctive atmosphere to the music, almost vocal with the saxophone’s ability to shape a note, but with a breathy horn-like quality, too.
Couple that with Lien’s wide range of piano sounds, fully exploiting the resonant potential of the giant woodern casing of the instrument, and Johansen’s percussion-player take on drumming, and the sonic range of the trio opens up considerably.
No.7 has a persuasive folk melody which reminds me a lot of the sort of things Keith Jarrett wrote for Jan Garbarek in his European Quartet; Flying finds Johansen laying down an electronic cushion of sounds for the others to play upon; Panorama is exactly that – a slow wide-sweeping musical scene of deep shade and glimmering light; Uluru (For Annette) is a real switch of tone with Johansen on closely mic’d strummed guitar and slapping wood blocks.
A beautiful album not only on the surface but one which rings with deep internal resonance.
Snekkestad has just released a limited edition disc called The Reed Trumpet which gives us a chance to hear this intriguing instrument at greater length. In fact it’s part of a solo album trilogy with the overall title The Poetics Of A Multiphonic Landscape, the other two discs, Winds Of Mouth and Plateau, featuring saxophone mouthpieces more convetionally used – connected to actual saxophones.
The range of sounds this musician gets from all his instruments – he also plays slide trumpet, clarinet and water bowl on Winds Of Mouth – is quite mind-boggling. But what he does is not simply clever. His attention to sound in space, to nuance of timbre, to level of attack and decay within each note, to control and expression of overtones, and to the overall arc of often fairly abstract pieces of music, shows a a musician deeply dedicated to, and engaged with, his art.
Categories: CD review