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Bengt Nordström - The Environmental Control Office

Steven Loewy, All Music Guide

An important release is not necessarily a great release, and while this rare recording of legendary Swedish saxophonist and clarinetist Bengt Frippe Nordström is a significant contribution to the discography of Swedish jazz, Nordstrom's lengthy improvisations remind the listener of Albert Ayler on an off-day, which when you think about it is a complement of sorts.
Nordström squeezes a primitive sound from his horns, his tenor sounding precisely how drummer Peeter Uuskyla describes it in his liners: "It's fresh; like children playing a new game." There is an attractive simplicity about it too, with its unornamented quotes of other tunes, and its implicit rejection of bop phrasing and technique. Uuskyla describes the session as typical for Frippe: "Anything was possible and nothing was forbidden…"

Yet listening to it decades later it does not sound quite so radical, perhaps because the saxophonist does not use advanced techniques but relies on a pre-bop style transposed to Free Jazz. He does rely on repetitive phrases, a slow gait, a full-bodied sound, and a confident demeanor. Moreover, Uuskyla's powerful drumming keeps the saxophonist and everyone else on track.
Violinist Lars Svanteson improvises more than capably but sometimes he is somewhat tame (intimidated?) in a supporting role.
This recording captures the last time this quartet performed together, and while Nordström passed away in 2000, he will not be forgotten, in part thanks to the fine restorative work of the Swedish label Ayler Records, which has meticulously prepared this recording for release many years after it was put to wax.