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Per Henrik Wallin Trio - The Stockholm Tapes

Robert Iannapollo, Cadence Magazine

Swedish pianist Per Henrik Wallin has always been a shadowy figure for me. Back in the '70s, his was a name that cropped up on record lists from time to time and yet no one ever seemed to know much about him. It's only in the last few years, with a historical release from Atavistic and now this one from Ayler records (which focuses on his trio from 1975-1977) that I've been able to hear what I've been missing. And, based on this release, I have to go back and find more.

It's not that this trio is particularly innovative. What they're playing is fairly typical of the free Jazz that was going down at the time. But it's the way they play it-with such energy and spirit-that makes it so winning. Wallin is an obviously accomplished pianist and is obviously the leader of the group, yet he never dominates the proceedings. His piano shows a familiarity with the complete history of modern Jazz piano.

His solo midway through the opener, "E.V.," starts out with Cecil Taylor-like cascades down the keyboard but then plays with figures that recall the township jive of Abdullah Ibrahim. A spray of Monk-ian dissonance, even a little Tristano-ish dexterity are all molded into a personal style.

His trio is with him every step of the way. The opening passages of this disc focus on the alto sax of Lars-Goran Ulander. His Bird-like cries come by way of Jimmy Lyons but at other times he recalls the plangent tone of Coltrane. Drummer Olsen seems to focus on rolling rumbles of sound and cymbal splashes, allowing the other two instruments to ride on the crests of his waves.

The first two tracks are taken from a 1977 concert. "E.V.," the strongest track here, starts out as a rubato-style Coltrane-ish intro yet it soon leaves that behind to become a swirl of free improvisation during Ulander's lengthy solo. When Wallin enters it becomes something totally different.
"Wuppertal" sounds more like a Cecil Taylor style piece. The last two tracks come from a 1975 concert and recall Taylor even more. Specifically, it sonically recalls the music that Taylor laid down during his infamous 1962 Café Montmartre date. This is made even more emphatic with the lack of a bass player.
At times drummer Olsen is evoking Sunny Murray's "continuous sound of shattering glass."

The earlier date seems rawer, not only in the recorded sound (which is passable if not perfect) but also in the handling of the material. The 1977 edition of the group sounds as if it's developed incrementally from the earlier date. Ulander and Olsen seem like far less derivative players. I should mention, however:
one of the highlights of "A Jive In July" is Ulander's a cappella solo where he sounds like no one else. Wallin's style, while already unique in 1975, seems to revel in its individuality by 1977.

This is powerful music, worth hearing in its own right and not only for its historic significance in documenting the little-known music that was being playing in Sweden during that period.

Ayler is to be commended for releasing this disc.