Lars-Göran Ulander Trio - Live at Glenn Miller Café

Ken Waxman, Jazz Weekly

Umeå-born alto saxophonist Lars-Göran Ulander's day job is as chief jazz radio producer for the Swedish Broadcasting Corp. He also played in different bands over the years, most notably in the 1960s and 1970s with trombonist Lars Lystedt and pianist Per Henrik Wallin. But after 40 years of recording, this is the initial CD released under his own name. Look at his backing dream team however. Young Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love has in a short time become the go-to percussionists for leaders on both sides of the Atlantic from Chicago reedist Ken Vandermark to British saxophonist Evan Parker. As for Stockholm-native, bassist Palle Danielsson, he was a member of the touring bands of Americans, pianist Keith Jarrett and saxophonist Charles Lloyd in the 1970s, and now works all over Europe.

An autodidact who studied Schoenberg and Hindemith on his own, Ulander has the force of personality on this CD to pilot a mid-course between the 1970s northerly cool undulations that the bassist prefers and the harder-hitting and more abstract tropes of the drummer.
On "Charles Mingus' "What Love", the set's one non-original, he gets Nilssen-Love to slap and pat his accompaniment while using Danielsson's double bass as if it was a second harmonized horn. With a surprisingly gentle touch, the bull fiddler maintains the rhythmic pulse as the saxophonist layers scads of pitch-sliding notes into his solo. Still, despite later rebounds and rim shots from the drummer, Ulander never loses his cool. Here, as elsewhere, even when harshly reed biting or squealing through his horn's body tube his exposition rarely moves past andante.

Oddly enough, the one time his Nordic reserves snaps is when he unveils warbling Jackie MacLean-like note-spraying on the nearly 22-minute "Ionizacion - Varaciones E.V." Double tonguing and utilizing altissimo smears, his playing energizes Danielsson, whose quick double-stopping relates more to Mingus on tunes like "Haitian Fight Song" then how he plays on this CD's "What Love".
Elsewhere Ulander impresses as he keeps up this balancing act that allows him to sound waves of harmonics that never reach multiphonic properties, as focused split tones and effortless obbligatos arrive with equal vigor.

This session gives an under-acknowledged reed man his place in the sun. Worth investigating.