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Per Henrik Wallin Trio - The Stockholm Tapes

Dan Warburton, Paris Transatlantic

One of Jan Ström's missions with Ayler Records has been to showcase Swedish free jazz, either by promoting young lions like SURD, or by unearthing archive recordings by older players who deserve to be much better known: Bengt Frippe Nordström, Anders Gahnhold and, with this extraordinary release, pianist Per Henrik Wallin.
The Stockholm Tapes compiles recordings made at the Jazz Club Fasching on August 5th 1975 and two years later at the Kägelbanan, on August 17th 1977.

Wallin is joined by alto saxophonist Lars-Göran Ulander and drummer Peter Olsen, who also apparently recorded the sets. The piano / alto / drums line-up inevitably invites comparison with the classic Cecil Taylor / Jimmy Lyons / Sunny Murray outfit that set Scandinavia aflame in the early 60s (and arguably kick-started what ultimately became European free improvisation), but, instrumentation aside, there's little to compare. Wallin's pianism is closer to McCoy Tyner, Dollar Brand and maybe even Keith Jarrett (recording quality aside, you could almost mistake it for early Matthew Shipp too), with plenty of piled up fourths and ecstatic flurries of arpeggios. He's not averse to the odd CT-style fisticuffs and left hand power octaves, but the lean, mean motivic workout that characterises the Taylor Units is replaced here with florid lyricism, supple yet strong.
Behind it all lies the modality of the Coltrane quartet, but Ulander's alto playing shows precious few signs of Trane's influence; instead, it's a wonderfully loose, gangly affair, taking ideas like modelling clay and twisting them into odd miniatures before moving on. Behind the kit, Olsen has no intentions of outdoing Elvin either, preferring painting to power with light, splattery cymbal and snare work (definite shades of Murray here).
But it's Wallin who steals the show - the extended solo in the opening "E.V." is a thing of wonder. Check it out.