Sven-Åke Johansson

Six Little Pieces for Quintet

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Drummer Sven-Åke Johansson's argument is simple: now that over 30 years separates listeners from early free jazz, you can revisit the genre from a distance. On Six Little Pieces for Quintet, the man who drummed with Han Bennink on Peter Brötzmann's landmark 1968 LP Machine Gun delivers tunes in the spirit of early free jazz. The structure is simple head/solos/head, communication language remains limited but unambiguous, and musicians have been selected for their knowledge of the period and the fact that they have ventured further down the experimental road. These are not free improvisations, but structured free jazz pieces, with the emphasis on jazz: it bops, it swings, it has rhythm, whether it is kept or ignored. Rudi Mahall (bass clarinet) and Axel Dörner (trumpet) deliver inspired solos, keeping extended techniques to a minimum -- Dörner has proven he is a seasoned experimentalist with his CD Claque but, although he does get "excited" on a few solos, he usually remains closer to more "standard" free jazz playing. "Medium, Ruhig (Bom-Zeke-Bom)" pitches and tosses wonderfully. "Forsches Legato" contains a ripping bass clarinet solo and "Iangsam" features a piano solo by Sten Sandell that has almost more in common with Charles Ives than with Cecil Taylor -- a highlight. Six Little Pieces for Quintet is light and friendly without drowning in nostalgia. Simply enjoyable. Recommended.

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