Exploding Customer - Live at Glenn Miller Café

Paul Donnelly, eJazzNews

Exploding Customer gets my award for best band name of the year so far and if it seems a trifle incongruous that they recorded at a sedate sounding café it isn't. This is actually a place where Ayler Records have recorded quite a bit of free jazz in the past. Though I did try to imagine 1940s suits and trilbies being rudely disturbed by the resultant explosion of clientele. Anyway, apart from an intriguing line in cryptic sleeve notes, exploding member Martin Küchen, along with the others, offers some acerbically improvised/composed excursions, so 'sedate' is not exactly the word.

They do set off in a fairly amiable manner with ostinato bass stalking behind Küchen and trumpeter Tomas Hallensten but this soon develops into a more turbulent fracas between the two with agitated drumming from Kjell Nordesen stirring things up further. It's strident bass man Benjamin Quigley who sets the pace for 'Quoting Frippe (what's the name of the bass player?)' and keeps up a constant undertow while trumpet and sax indulge in some angular duelling as well as taking time out for individual examinations of Küchen's composition.
Described as "a requiem over a dead friend" 'A Broken Glass' starts with a halting lugubrious quality, the cymbal tolling beneath the skeletal melody. It swiftly shifts up a gear and Küchen's sax brings a more emotive tone to the proceedings. It's raw and wounded and despite its origins in grief and loss, it is as exciting a piece of improvisation as you're likely to find. Hallonsten introduces a more sombre atmosphere like a mourner gradually giving vent to a gradual outpouring of grief and anger. Again, a spine-tingling example of jazz that embraces freedom and focussed emotional content.
Showing that conventional forms don't have to be anathema to free jazz, Küchen's 'Tango du Prison' pays passing homage to that particular ballroom dance though, as you may expect, they treat it with a certain degree of elasticity. Sax and trumpet become partners in a workout that is partly raucous, partly reflective.
If you aren't sure whether or not free improvisation is for you then spend an hour or so at the Glenn Miller Café with these guys and I think you may just be convinced that it is.