Galumphing Duo: Contrast Of Opposites

Norwegian duo uses reeds (including the tubax, a sax-tuba hybrid) and trombone to improvise on a series of mostly playful riffs and moods


The concept of galumphing is described as “inexhaustible play energy” in the 1990 (recently updated) book Free Play by Stephen Nachmanovitch. It inspires this album from two improvisers with a shared passion for loose-spun storytelling. Japanese Ensō circles were another key stimulus. These hand-drawn shapes, created in one or two brushstrokes, express a moment of creative freedom.

South African multi-reedist Shannon Mowday is one half of this free-thinking twosome. She plays alto clarinet, alto and baritone saxophone, plus the rare bass saxophone and the even rarer tubax – named as a combination of tuba and saxophone. Mowday is joined by Norwegian brass musician Jørgen Bjelkerud, who sticks to the trombone.

Several tracks feature three-beat or six-beat rhythms. Woza Waltz shifts across time signatures. There’s an undercurrent of self-irony bubbling beneath the innocent frolicking. Baritone saxophone (probably) and trombone (definitely) take turns to slide in and out of the foreground.

Sørgemarsj opens with deep-ridged tones from tubax (surely?). The trombone joins the loping lament, adding comic edge with heavy use of mutes.

Listeners get farmyard fun at the start of Subtropical Thicket. Clucky phrases from baritone (or not) meet chickeny patterns from trombone. There are Dixieland-ish passages and Latin sections. It’s another track with an endless wardrobe of costume changes.

Mowday and Bjelkerud cover a lot of ground on this impish record, propelled by a spirit of spontaneity. Together, they embrace the challenges of their unconventional instrumentation and open up rich veins of possibility within each track on Contrast Of Opposites. The stories they tell are truly galumphing, free-ranging, and full of charm too.

Woza Waltz; Noodling In 3; Contrast Of Opposites; Sørgemarsj; Waltz For Kenny; Subtropical Thicket; My Woorde; Supposing; Improvisation On ‘What a Wonderful World’; Bånsull (Etter PG Lien); Thula Baba/Qongqothwane (49.02)
Shannon Mowday (as, bar, bass, tubax, cl); Jørgen Bjelkerud (tb). Oslo, Norway 2023.
AMP Music & Records AT 0152