Label: Ayler Records – aylCD-013
Format: CD, Album; Country: Sweden - Released: 2005
Style: Free Jazz, Free Improvisation
Recorded in concert at the Glenn Miller Café, Stockholm, Sweden, August 25 & 26, 2004.
Design, Cover art By – Åke Bjurhamn
Layout By – Stéphane Berland
Photography By – Lars Jönson
Executive producer By – Jan Ström
One of the joys of recorded jazz is rediscovering a deserving artist that fell into the cracks of history. You've probably never heard of alto saxophonist Ulander, for example, unless you followed Swedish jazz in the 1960s, when he was actively recording with the likes of Berndt Egerbladh, a talented pianist who composed hip post-bop tunes, and Lars Lystedt, a valve trombonist and longtime fixture on the scene, or remember him as a member of radical pianist Per Henrik Wallin's mid-'70s free trio.
The problem was that few of those LPs were distributed outside of Sweden then, or survive now, and Ulander recorded less than a handful of sessions between 1975 and today, preferring a career as full-time producer at Swedish Radio to the rigors of the road. Live at the Glenn Miller Café is, in fact, Ulander's debut session as a leader, and displays his circuitous, lyrical improvising in five lengthy performances from 2004. In his younger days, Ulander exhibited a bit of Jackie McLean's biting tone and edgy urgency when playing more straightahead material, but now, exploring freer territory, he's neither extravagant nor overly expressionistic, engaging in open, conversational interplay with bassist Palle Danielsson and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love.
Sedona, Arizona is home to a series of peculiar structures. To the layperson eye they are little more than cobbled together cairns slowly crumbling to dust. But to the local populace of crystal-wearing, chakra-obssessed mystics these stone piles are focal points, dots on a metaphysical map where spiritual energy pools in abundance and believers gain regular ingress to other states of consciousness. To the jazz fan the imperfect analogues are legendary clubs, venues where doyens stride the stage and make history as they build on the music night after night. The Village Vanguard, The Velvet Lounge, The Vortex, The Bimhaus, these are but a few. Thanks to the assiduous efforts of Ayler Records the Glenn Miller Café is earning a ranking among the number.
Jan Ström refers to the Café as the label’s “number one ‘studio’.” That’s no errant boast given that at least seven of the imprint’s releases to date were birthed within its walls. I can’t help pondering what the cafés supper club friendly namesake would have thought of much of the improv-centric music radiating from the stage. Whatever his possible opinion of the place, the incongruity often makes for some delightful irony; especially when ensembles like the Lars Göran Ulander Trio are the purveyors for an evening. In common with certain others on the Ayler roster including Anders Gahnold and Martin Küchen, Ulander represents relatively obscure surname to most non-European jazz listeners. His work on the Ayler-released Per Henrik Wallin compilation The Stockholm Tapes helped reverse the tide of American anonymity, but those recordings dated from the 70s. This recent one connotes his commercial debut as leader and presents a saxophonist still in possession of considerable creative skills.
Joining Ulander in the trio are two seemingly incongruous compatriots. My experience with Palle Danielsson is pretty much limited to his work on various ECM outings, mostly in the company of talented, but sometimes overly-sedate pianist Bobo Stenson. Paal Nilssen-Love frequently represents the other side of the coin, a powerhouse drummer comfortable in the company of Brötzmann and Gustafsson and one who a breaks a heavy beading sweat every time behind his kit. The two players meet beautifully in the middle between their respective poles, Danielssonn producing a full-bodied tensile thrum when it comes to pizzicato and Nilssen-Love favoring nuance as much as brawn in his myriad rhythms. Ulander trolls the lower regions of his alto, brushing the tenor range with a tone furrowed by emotive veracity.
“Tabula Raasa G.M.C.,” first of three lengthy collective improvisations, finds the three reaching a flexible consensus that sustains for nearly the entire set. The Mingusian anthem “What Love” serves as a fitting median piece. The leader engages Danielsson in a dialogue worthy of the source incarnations, mixing dialects of Dolphy and McLean in a continuation of a conference initiated on the earlier, enigmatically-titled “Intrinsic Structure I.” Sprawling in scope, “Ionizacion- Variaciones E.V.” borrows kernels from Varese’s epochal percussion ensemble piece and injects slivers of jazz time. All three tracks feature propulsion-packed, texture-stacked solos by Nilssen-Love. Ulander’s own “J.C. Drops” closes the concert and he shows an even stronger abiding influence of Art Pepper in his velocious, often piercing lines.
Add Ulander’s name to those of others like James Finn, Bill Gagliardi and Stephen Gauci, saxophonists of the far-better-late-than-never fraternity who are finally receiving some measure of their due. And thanks to the Glenn Miller Café, a venue slowly accruing legendary status, for help making it happen.
_ By DEREK TAYLOR
September 5, 2005 (Dusted)
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