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Peter Janson, Jonas Kullhammar & Paal Nilssen-Love - Live at Glenn Miller Café

Derek Taylor, One Final Note

As one of Stockholm's most receptive venues for creative improvised music, the Glenn Miller Café has understandably become something of a regular recording studio for the Swedish Ayler Records. Past releases on the label have showcased visiting legends like Sunny Murray and John Stevens, but this particular disc turns to a more localized reservoir of talent as the source of its inspiration. A ringing endorsement etched in hyperbolic prose by fellow countryman Mats Gustafsson provides the necessary written preview. But it's in the immediately voluble veracity of their music that the lucrative deal of improvisatory artistry is actually inked.

Shouldering a surname that unavoidably conjures images of Viking conquests and barbarian hordes, Jonas Kullhammar more than lives up to these surly expectations. His tone is broad and burly, filling the space with bellowing roar, particularly when he hoists the cumbersome baritone - thick oaken reed cinched tightly between clenched teeth. But he can also reel things back with surprisingly subtle phrasings and nimble intervallic shifts. A brief slice of café chatter and the band leaps headfirst into the chilly waters of "Cold Thrills," with the saxophonist improvising atop the seething textures of a frothing rhythmic spray. Peter Janson bears the brunt of his wake, racing over the surface of his fingerboard and shaving off percolating runs in close syngery with the sensitive stick play of Paal Nilssen-Love. Kullhammar's return signals a less emphatic turn that gradually builds density and torque for a terse (and seemingly edited) end. "Slowdown" begins as Janson's show and, without the competing sonics of his partners, the bassist's buxom tone sounds off resoundingly in the spotlight. Trading in flamenco flurries and sudden stops, his statement is at once virtuosic and visceral in its vernacular. Kullhammar eventually creates an underscoring reed-borne rasp as counterpoint, coarsening and hardening his line with time while Nilssen-Love deals in feathery taps and patters.

The drummer's approach in the opening minutes of "Smash-and-Grab" is another matter, where he sets fire to a building and receding beat on a multitude of surfaces. Kullhammar's churlish baritone gets in on the larcenous action with a series of chest-rattling stentorian blasts. Janson gouges a sliding groove from his strings, teaming with the drummer's quicksilver sticks to provide sufficient lift for the saxophonist's ensuing solo flight. The latter's locution seems tailor-made for the heavy horn, ripe with rippling snorts and seismic rumbles, making his eventual turn back to tenor come far too soon. Exploring knotted note streams and skidding register shifts, he eventually opens up into an intimate discourse with Janson. "Blow-Out" realizes the promise of its curt nomenclature, a culmination of improvisatory energy both spent and marshaled. Kullhammar, having finally broken a heavy sweat, launches his horn once more into the pounding sonic surf whipped up by his partners for a final frolic among the rhythm-charged waves. And so it goes, another blistering performance soaks its essence into the walls of the Swedish café and the Ayler Records team is on hand to serve as the means of global circulation.