At just 31 the young Norwegian saxophonist and bandleader Harald Lassen is barely old enough to have encountered the first great flourishing of Scandinavian free jazz, even by osmosis. Yet from the opening bars of “Alt Flyter” it is clear that the dark brooding spirit of that golden era is at the very core of his energising music. Think of Garbarek’s Til Vigdis, Sart or Afric Pepperbird, a place where the rawness of late Trane and Ayler collides with archetypically barren Scandinavian landscape, and you’ll have some sense of what to expect here.
But as with any release on Bugge Wesseltoft’s influential Jazzland label there are a number of altogether more contemporary currents flowing through Lassen’s music, and it is this process of musical melding which makes Eventyrer such a fascinating and intoxicating brew.
If “Alt Flyter” is an unashamedly nostalgic Scandi free ballad, the pulsating bass-driven groove that underpins Lassen’s scorching tenor flight on “Ekstase” feels far more of the moment. The steel pans and Sun Ra-esque chants heard on “Kulturruscome” from somewhere else entirely, providing evidence of that defining musical curiosity held by so many of today’s most adventurous explorers. The delicate lines of “You Should’ve Been There” float gracefully over a pedal drone, while “Lila Eule” tips a welcome nod to the impassioned modal excursions of the great Garbarek-Stenson quartet, giving the deeply resourceful “De Looze” an opportunity to really stretch out.
Initially disarming, the vocal-led interlude “Min By” will come as no surprise to followers of Lassen’s indie-jazz group Pixel. Closing the set is “Get Er Dette Som Er Meningais”, a wistful Lassen / De Looze duet, and as a field recording of pure birdsong dissolves into pure silence, it is hard to imagine a more perfect form of pastoral bliss.
Brimming with composerly melodies and bristling with unbridled improvisational flights, this thoughtfully nuanced set spans the ages and points towards a bright future for Lassen.
Alt Flyter; Ekstase; Kulturrus; You Should’ve Been There; Lila Eule; Min By; Get Er Dette Som Er Meninga (40.00)
Harald Lassen (ts, pc, v); Bram De Looze (p, elp); Stian A. E. Andersen (b); Tore Flatfjord (d, pc). Halden, Norway, October 2017.
Jazzland Recordings 377 980 1