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Exploding Customer - At Tampere Jazz Happening

Bill Shoemaker, Point of Departure

For listeners who place Martin Küchen on the far abstract end of the improvised music spectrum, the saxophonist’s Exploding Customer will prompt a reassessment. A quartet with trumpeter Tomas Hallonsten, bassist Benjamin Quigley and drummer Kjell Nordeson, EC plays jazz unabashedly.

On Live At Tampere Jazz Happening, their second album, Küchen writes persuasively in a number of idioms – everything from second-line stomps to tangy Middle East-tinged themes that call Carlo Actis Dato to mind, and soul-baring Ayleresque dirges.

On tenor, Küchen has an appealing Sheppish rasp, which also translates well on alto; the big sound he has on the higher horn is impressive. His cohorts bring much to each of the nine crisply rendered tunes, only two of which clock in over seven minutes, which keeps the set moving.
Hallonsten has an encyclopedic knowledge of the jazz trumpet tradition, but he also knows not to lean too hard on the references.
Quigley and Nordeson are a fine tandem, as the bassist provides rock-solid time and clearly delineates the cadences, allowing Nordeson to toss off flurries of fills without dissipating their unified forward movement.

The most intriguing aspect of the set is how Küchen mixes probing, even stark material with the fun stuff in roughly equal measure without coming off as calculated.

Chalk it up to Exploding Customer’s energy and esprit de corps.