Ornette fans? Yeah, but Norway's LW is a quintet with deeper roots that go to a different set of strata than those of one of my favorite Texas hyperbluesmen. I suspect bassist Tine Amundsen linked up with O. Coleman's musical persona 'round about SKIES OF AMERICA, his 1972 concerto grosso for band and orchestra. Which to my knowledge still doesn't have a definitive recording!! But with same, Ornette reached a common ground with the European impressionists and postmodernists such as Debussy, Scriabin, Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Varese, et al; given how the first 3 of the above list have always seemed to inform much tonal European Jazz (see the much-maligned-though-to-my-mind-never-deserving-of-it ECM label), we have potentially a pairing made reasonably close to heaven. Works out that way most of the time on this CD as well; I think some will carp at the lack of dynamic range in the selected tempos on LIVE 2003, but Amundsen's quintet taps a vein of Jazz that for my money always deserves another look. I have nothing but admiration for the more R&B- derived Jazz musicians from our side of the Pond (and I will continue to defend Mingus' OH YEAH as being just as nasty, down and dirty a blues-influenced release as anything by Led Zeppelin, and light-years more intelligent, duh), but as Mingus himself repeatedly made clear, one can essay blues structures without the blues 'feel.' For proof of this, see the stamping, shouting bass clarinet solo in a witty re- imagination of Chico Freeman's "The Search." How do you say, "Play that horn, bro'!" in Norwegian? Amundsen's one composition here, "Lummring," does that very thing with a circular bass riff and a tasty Herbie Hancock-like melody which could have dated from his THE PRISONER era. Anders Aarum's piano is tart and well-reined-in throughout this one, and the two-horn front line (Vidar Johansen, tenor sax/ bass clarinet; Roy Nikolaisen, trumpet/fluegelhorn) swing the tune with gentle authority. A take of Billy Harper's "If One Could Only See" opens with the other pianist Jorn Oien (he and Aarum alternate here, as this CD is culled from two separate live performances)'s off-quote of a long-ago Prestige solo recording by McCoy Tyner of Coltrane's "Naima"; unlike the more reticent Aarum, Oien goes the route that "more is more, but within sensible boundaries."
Once the theme is dispensed with, Johansen builds some fine cloud castles in an Elton Dean kind of way, carefully circling the chords and filling the spaces about them. Simply beautiful. Nikolaisen's tone is more classic bop-ish, but given the stately tempos on this CD he waxes convincingly contemplative with slow swoops and quiet thoughts.
As for the rhythm section, Svein Christiansen is a true cymbal wizard, essaying a basic style with few unnecessary embellishments unless Aarum is at the piano and then he lets himself 'wig' a bit more. Amundsen's quite the joy as well, penning for a prelude to "The Search" a short serious continuo for bowed bass and bass clarinet that segues flawlessly into the following 'blues that isn't a blues' section. Again, just right. Evocative covers of McCoy Tyner's "Search for Peace" and "Contemplation" nearly round out the set, but we can't forget a slow-boiling visitation upon Roscoe Mitchell's "C-Monster" which makes me wonder if this fivesome might be willing to move it on out into more improvisatory territory the next time they're in the proximity of recording equipment. Say, start out with a rendition of "Lonely Woman" and build from there. But a critic can't recommend a CD that doesn't exist - yet- so grab this one. Yesterday!
by Kenneth Egbert