A Tonic For The Troops: Realm Of Opportunities 

Looking past the deliberate Abba parody of the cover, the Norwegian quartet's second album is defined by substantial post-bop and jazz-rock

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The follow-up to this quartet’s excellently pugnacious debut album Ambush (Odin, 2021), A Realm Of Opportunities is a more refined affair with less of the instant quirkiness of its predecessor. Nonetheless it’s an impressively classy record which consolidates Brekken’s renown as a top-flight composer in addition to her peerless acoustic and electric bass playing. Fans will be aware that since their debut album Shoot! (Rune Grammofon, 2011) she has been the mainstay of the irrepressible Hedvig Mollestad Trio.

The stentorian title track opener sports a catchy riff stated by piano and tenor, underpinned by an insistent bass and drums allegro rhythm, all of which burns into the listener’s memory bank. Song For The Resilient, dedicated to the women in Iraq and Afghanistan who fiercely fight against oppressive regimes, is introduced by a plangent theme courtesy of Magnus Bakken’s tenor saxophone and Espen Berg’s lissom piano, here channelling the masterly playing of the late virtuoso John Taylor. Jon is an elegiac paean to the late Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen which is followed by the gentle ballad Arctic Waltz.

The closer is the foot-tapping A Cup Of Ambition, which takes its title from Dolly Parton’s famous song 9 to 5 as heard in the caustic line “Pour myself a cup of ambition”. Brekken offers a lithe acoustic bass solo and there’s more scintillating extemporisation from Bakken and Berg, the whole piece being tightly driven by drummer Magnus Sefaniassen Eide.

Despite the album’s deliberately cheesy Abba-esque cover photo, this is an excellent set by an exceptional quartet.


Discography
Realm Of Opportunities; Song For The Resilient; Jon; Arctic Waltz; A Cup Of Ambition (37.02)
Ellen Brekken (b); Magnus Bakken (ts); Espen Berg (p); Magnus Sefaniassen Eide (d). No place or date given.
Odin LP9584 / ODIN CD9584