Anders Hagberg: North

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Hagberg says the title of this highly attractive and beguiling album refers both to the musicians’ origins in Sweden, Norway and Finland, and “the musical approach taken, in which communication, silence and melody are central”. There are also influences from warmer climes on Four Three and Melodic Modes (the Middle-East) and Silent Ways (India).

Except for Gidda, which is an arrangement of a traditional tune, all the tracks are Hagberg’s compositions. 

Notwithstanding a relatively bustling opener and the dancing Four Three, the overall atmosphere of the album is one of peacefulness and gentleness, a welcome balm in these anxious times (although recorded before the coronavirus really took hold) and the mood of individual tracks varies between a kind of reserved, wistful optimism and a healing, recuperative melancholy. Even after I finished this review I kept going back to play the album again, being rewarded equally whether I listened intently to details or just let the music wash over me.

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Captivating themes and engrossing improvisations with inventively intertwining lines are couched in gorgeous textures, and the various external influences, sparingly used, are integrated skilfully and subtly.

Toivanen, especially, employs some unusual and unexpected sonorities to good effect, notably in the lower register, but there is much beautiful playing from all members of the group, both in their own solos and in support of others. The press release’s description of this as a “dream team” gets no argument from me.

Discography
Islands Of The North; Inga; Avenue Junot; North; Four Three; Melodic Modes; Gidda; Silent Ways; Children (49.54)
Hagberg (f, ss); Joona Toivanen (p); Johannes Lundberg (b); Helge Andreas Norbakken (pc). 26-27 February 2020.
Prophone PCD 238

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