Anders Gahnold Trio - Flowers for Johnny

Ken Waxman, Jazz Weekly

Appropriately, though morosely titled, this two-CD set will be welcomed since it puts into circulation another 100 plus minutes of music featuring expatriate South African bassist Johnny Dyani (1945-1986).
The discs, recorded in 1983 and 1985, are also the only recorded examples of this working trio, headed by Anders Gahnold. The Swede is an avocational alto saxophonist, who abandoned jazz after Dyani's death, only recording again on 2002's And William Danced with Americans, bassist William Parker and drummer Hamid Drake.
It may be that he only feels comfortable working with non-Swedes. While he started improvising early -- he was born in 1959 -- his only band was this spur-of-the-moment affair formed when he met Dyani loading his bass into his car after a gig and asked if the older man was interested. It was the bassist who brought along drummer Gilbert Matthews, another expatriate South African, whose European experience encompassed gigs with American saxist Charles Tyler and South African pianist Chris McGregor.
McGregor and Dyani were part of the Blues Notes, a racially mixed band that emigrated together from South Africa to London in the 1960s. After mixing with many British improvisers, the bassist moved his base of operations to Copenhagen from 1972 until the end of his life, recording with American and Dutch experimenters and touring as part of guitarist Pierre Dørge's New Jungle Orchestra.

Sweden was more conservative than Denmark though. Not only was this trio the bassist's only gig there, but his assured and powerful playing is placed in a pretty conventional freebop -- almost hard bop -- setting on the CD itself.
Gahnold, who was initially influenced by Charlie Parker and Paul Desmond, sticks to Bird's simpler side throughout. Like the Energizer Bunny he always seems "on" -- able to play and play and play. But his note selection on each tune, and his rather limited variations on the themes don't seem to diverge that much from standard changes. His output, especially on the first CD, sounds like that of Jackie McLean, or one of the other second generation modern alto saxophonists: based on bop, it's a bit more progressive but wedded to simple changes.
There are times here when he honks like an R&B stylist and others places, as on "Gilbert's Blues," where his highly shaded and edgy tone produces chirping sounds not that much different than what Cannonball Adderley would play.
Sticking to cymbal action and the occasional bass drum bomb dropping, Matthews too seems most comfortable in bop time. As a matter of fact there are portions of the blues track where his snare work suggests Dannie Richmond, at least the way Richmond played in 1960. Showcased, as on "Groove For Willy," however, he's practically transformed into Buddy Rich with a crowd-pleasing exhibition of thumps, rumbles and jumps. When Gahnold follows him with squealing up-and-down variations on the theme, it could be an updated JATP concert with the saxist in the Flip Phillips role.

The three were tighter two years later. When they take on "Summertime," the set's one standard, Matthew's bounces and rolls emphasize the beat-bound side of the tune, while the reedist's wide vibrato and soaring obbligatos suggest that he can't decide whether to improvise as a pre-modern hot soloist or like Janis Joplin.
Grasping the unvarying tempo beneath his fingers, Dyani still has time to suddenly leap up the neck to yank some notes from beneath the pegs and come up with Sketches of Spain-like flamenco suggestions in his backing work. Similar legerdemain happens elsewhere. Powerful and resonate on "Jagad," he strums his strings like a guitar, when not double and triple stopping enough to encourage Gahnold to add color to his overblowing. "Duett," which despite the title is a trio number, finds him trying on for size flat-picking plucks, trad jazz slaps, metallic tugs and some caterwauling arco work on top of solid drum rolls and shrill reed tones from the others.
Elsewhere, low-down, woody, resonating bass notes vie for sonic space with squeaking wiry notes, torqued for maximum augmentation. Plus "Gilbert's Blues," which though definitely American-inflected, seems to remind Dyani of his homeland's Townships; his slithering bass solo features tempo changes and output that could also come from an African kora.
Those seeking hitherto unexposed examples of Dyani's four-string art will be well served by these discs as will those who prefer a not terribly experimental freebop session. But in many ways the historical value here outweighs the purely musical.