WOOD / LINDVALL: A Walk in the Forest 1 & 2. A Decision 1, 2 & 3. Move With the Energy 1 & 2.* Light Flight 1 & 2. Still 1 & 2. Walking Towards Home / Lars Lindvall Tentet: Lindvall, tpt/Fl-hn; Wege Wüthrich, cl; John Voirol, oboe/sop-sx; Otmar Kramis, bs-cl; Andreas Tschopp, tb; Francis Coletta, gt; Christoph Stiefel, pno/synth; Wolfgang Zwiauer, bs; Thomas Weiss, perc; *add Richard Dobrowski, tpt & Robert Morgenthaler, tb / self-produced CD, available for purchase or streaming HERE on Bandcamp
NOW OR NEVER / CD 1: LINDVALL: Hunting. Wake Up to Beauty and its Nuances. Bigband 44. Inside Joy With Ears. With Joy. Hallelujah. Beyond Hunting. Beyond 1 & 2 / Lars Lindvall, Wolfgang Zumpe, Mike Maurer, Jonas Winterhalter, Christoph Mahnig, tpt; Lukas Wyss, Lukas Briggen, Christoph Huber, Christian Kramer, tb; John Voirol, sop-sax; Natthias Kohler, a-sax; Christian Schütz, t-sax/sop-sax; Wege Wüthrich, t-sax; Otmar Kramis, bar-sax; Franz Hellmüller, gt; Fred Lang, pno; Hagen Neye, bs; Jan Schwinning, dm. / CD 2: LINDVALL: Evolving & Dissolving Modes, 1-4. Beyond 3 / Same as CD 1, but add Lindvall, didgeridoos/nord lead 3/ableton live/trumpet-effect-shapes; Christian Muthspiel, tb; Jay Clayton, voc; Gregor Hilbe, dm; Teerth Gonzales, perc / self-produced CDs, available for purchase or streaming on Bandcamp: CD 1, CD 2 (rec. 2016)
Lars Lindvall is a 60-year-old Swedish jazz trumpeter-composer who looks a lot like Elvis Costello and clearly lives in the world of his own imagination. He contacted me by email (his email only included his first name) and asked if he could mail me some CDs from Sweden. Since I now have highly unreliable mail delivery at my home, thanks to President Trump installing a moron as Postmaster General who took away postal workers’ ability to use electronic sorting and other such things, I asked him if he could simply email me MP# files, cover art and booklets for me to audition and see if I’d like to review them.
I waited a week for him to answer. When he didn’t, I wrote him again. That’s when he told me he wasn’t sure if he had the sound files on his computer but directed me to his Bandcamp pages, where I was able to audition the music.
My regular readers know that I am generally not a fan of “ambient music,” be it jazz or classical, because such pieces generally don’t have anything interesting in them. But much of Lindvall’s music is different. As a trumpeter, he clearly models himself after Miles Davis, playing a few sparse notes rather than rapid streams of them. He is talking to you, not trying to impress you with his chops. Furthermore, his music is…well. weird. It takes its own circuitous routes as it tiptoes through the tulips of your mind. In this respect, it reminds me of some of innovative music of the old “cool school” of the 1950s, for those of you who remember (or have even heard) the music of Tony Scott and Chico Hamilton (or even Miles Davis himself). Thus I decided to review the second and third of the three albums he sent me links to, and here they are.
Neither album is new; in fact, they were released a decade apart. Wood came out in 2006 and Now or Never in 2016. Lindvall’s own description of the Wood music will give you a glimpse into his mind:
In February 2003, I started to write the wood music. My aim was to develop a series of musical pieces reflecting different energies which I have been discovering in my life. To use simple melodies, sound textures & grooves supporting those energies to be felt by the listener…We had the opportunity to perform the “Wood” program at different venues in Switzerland during 2004 and 2005. During that time I recorded all horn tracks, guitar and bass. Piano and percussion were recorded at the Radiostudio in Zurich.
Now you are a part of it! (To) Be taken and moved (by it) is the only way to be part of the journey. the music needs to be dreamt, to be trusted and to be brought to life. Listen, sing, dance and, most importantly, enjoy.
Yes, indeed. Be prepared to ride the Starship Lindvall to the Wood Galaxy.
A Walk in the Forest 1 opens with solo trumpet, very much à la Miles: theme statement, after which the synthesizer comes in behind him with a (very) sustained E-flat major chord. This them moves seamlessly into part 2, when the trumpet and some of the winds come in, still with the synth holding that E-flat chord. It is music that develops slowly, but it does develop, eventually changing harmony beneath the clarinet solo, producing music that is not all that far removed from the French impressionists. Little double-time figures by other winds change it still further as the drone stops, followed by a bit of conga-style drumming and an entirely new theme played in the trumpet’s mid-range by Lindvall. Slow-moving it may well be, but it’s also very creative. By the time we reach the clarinet solo, it has assumed a sort of Middle Eastern belly-dancing beat. Beneath its slow-moving pace and development, this is a real composition: it has a beginning, a middle, and an end, always moving in its relaxed way to another way station. Christoph Stiefel contributes an excellent piano solo to the mix as well.
A Decision opens with an 11-second bongo drum solo, tracked separately on the album, before the very spacey theme, set to an irregular meter, moves in. Once again, the music is both fascinating and well structured and here, again, Lindvall uses a Middle Eastern sort of beat. This is really cool stuff! In A Decision Part 2, we hear another change of theme and meter as well as an excellent guitar solo by Francis Coletta…with NO ROCK BEAT!! (Let’s hear a collective cheer or an “Amen”!) Another thing I noticed was that, as the music evolved, little motifs and.or rhythms flowed from one section to the next. The final section of A Decision is an a cappella trumpet solo played through a reverb tunnel with a little drums. Weird but effective.
And yes, these pieces do tend to make up a suite, tied together by some common beats and keys but with each section being somewhat different. I could give further details on all of them but this would spoil the fun of discovery for the new listener. As Lindvall said, you have to come to the party, each in your own way.
Despite his using six brass and wind instruments, Lindvall also keeps his scores uncluttered. The textures are transparent, revealing all the little details inside the music that might otherwise be lost had he scored them more like an orchestra. This, too, enhances one’s enjoyment of the music.
Lindvall goes even further, however, in his enthusiastic promotion for the double-CD Now or Never, calling it “essential music for big band—a document of the times!” Lindvall also defines it as “a culmination of Lars’ musical output.” Well, if course it’s a document of the times…every recording documents the time spent in the studio at that moment in time. But let’s see if it’s essential, shall we?
Hunting clearly has a vibe similar to the Wood music, except that the opening theme is more fragmented, with space in between phrases. The orchestration is also richer, using a bit more brass, and when the music finally gets going, using a simple but attractive riff, it is scored a bit heavier than Wood. The music is still interesting, and Lindvall continues to develop his themes, but it has a more overt quality about it at times and some of the solos are more aggressive. To a certain extent, this music reminded me of the high-quality big band scores written in the 1970s and ‘80s by Toshiko Akiyoshi, still one of the most underrated and neglected jazz composers of all time. Indeed, as the baritone sax solo on this track continues, it increases not only in volume but in tempo until it, and the band, sound very much like the Akiyoshi-Tabackin Big Band.
In Wake Up to Beauty and its Nuances, Lindvall reverts to his spacey side, opening with a soft trumpet solo accompanied only by guitar, and even when a slow rhythm suggests itself, he is underscored by bowed bass and the orchestra’s textures are soft-grained. Yet again the volume increases, falls back, then increases again as the music develops, but these volume swells are less frequent than in Hunting and, by and large, the music is gentler. About two-thirds of the way into it, in fact, we again hear that quasi-Middle Eastern rhythm that permeated the music of Wood, and from that point on the piece is quiet and restful.
But if this piece has the delicacy of a Gil Evans score, Bigband 44 is a jazz samba more reminiscent of the jazz of 20 years later (’64). After an excellent piano solo introduction by Fred Lang, soft brass mixtures (again reminiscent of Gil Evans) move in to introduce the theme, followed by a mellow tenor sax statement against guitar counterpoint. This one is largely interesting ensemble figures interspersed with nice sax solos.
Inside Joy With Ears returns us to some of the spacey music of Wood, opening with sparse trumpet figures played against guitar, bass and drums, all playing discretely and not at all together behind Lindvall. In time, this quiet little melee between these three rhythm instruments becomes a quiet brawl, but Lindvall just calmly keeps interjecting his odd little improvised figures. Eventually, however, the rhythm recedes, all but the guitar drop out, and Lindvall sails along over the guitar (and then later, the bass playing an odd funky little figure underneath) before Lindvall returns, this time with some trumpet growls thrown in. A very strange track!
The other pieces vary somewhat, alternating fast and slow numbers appropriately, sometimes capturing some of the flavor of Wood and at other times creating its own vibe. And once again, I hesitate to spoil the surprise of much of this music for listeners. Just take my word for it, it’s all worth listening to.
Ah, but then there is the second CD in this set, which consists of only five tracks: the very long (almost a half hour) Evolving & Dissolving Modes I, the fairly long (around 13 minutes each) Modes 2-4, and the short conclusion (1:30) of Beyond. This is much more “out there” music, with Lindvall often switching from trumpet to didgeridoo, a female vocalist (Jay Clayton) injecting occasional sung notes or short whoops), and much more amorphic music. In the liner notes, Lindvall explains that he conceived CD 2 as “more of «the never ending story» of nature, with its moods and yearly patterns. Nature has always been my most important inspiration. Especially I had the Swedish grey light in mind, which mostly can be experienced in fall and the early winter season – a thousand of different nuances of grey, without being heavy or depressing.” So there you go.
The music is, for the most part, very slow indeed, and the Mediterranean/Middle Eastern rhythm is also back. Leave it to Lindvall to combine ideas from Aboriginal, Arabic and Swedish culture and pour them into a primarily Western musical mold. After the halfway point, however, the music becomes more and more tonal and Western in concept, which for me, personally, was a mistake. It should have kept probing and changing. After a dead stop, which feels like the finale, we get a fairly long coda, and this is more daring harmonically.
Part 2 is a shade faster, and after a while the drums enter to give the music a little more of a kick. This caravan is a little peppier and more wide awake than the first one. Some of the scoring for the trumpet section also includes a certain amount of bitonal harmony, which also adds piquancy to the proceedings. Part 4 is the swingingest of the entire set as well as the most harmonically adventurous.
But again, I don’t want to give too much away since Lindvall has little (and large) surprises in store for the listener in every track. No, it’s not a towering masterpiece, but it’s certainly creative and absorbing, well worthy of the time you spend listening to it, and it does create an hypnotic sound environment that you can feel comfortable in.
Just remember Lars Lindvall’s motto:
You are not dancing. LIFE IS DANCING YOU!
—© 2022 Lynn René Bayley
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