Tag Archives: Johan Berthling

Free Jazz review by Dan Sorrelis

CF 284Angles 9 – In Our Midst (CF 284)
One of last year’s highlights was Angles 8’s sprawling By Way of Deception, an album that introduced an expanded line-up and featured liner notes by Free Jazz blog founder Stef Gijssels. After two previous releases on Clean Feed, By Way of Deception showed that there was still room for bandleader Martin Küchen’s vision to grow, with pianist Alexander Zethson greatly expanding the group’s rhythmic foundation, and Eirik Hegdal’s additional saxophone further broadening the band’s sonic palette.

On Clean Feed’s latest venture into the LP resurgence, Angles has expanded yet again, adding trumpeter Magnus Broo back into the fold after his absence on By Way of Deception. (It should be noted the band has grown even more since this recording, appearing at Jazzfestival Saalfelden this summer as a 10-piece with an additional drummer). A single LP, In Our Midst feels like a quick update, an intermediate document that serves as a snapshot of the band as it continues to evolve.

In Our Midst opens with a new eponymous track, a smoldering piece that builds a typically wistful melodic theme over slow-motion afrobeat rhythms. Angles’ music has always been deceptively simple and completely unsubtle at first blush. In reality, it’s meticulously crafted, emotive music that’s continually reborn as the musicians explore the possibilities in songs they have become intimately familiar with (Küchen doesn’t write anything down—the group learns and internalizes the music through Küchen’s demonstrations). Angles has in spades what many improvising groups have trouble conjuring: visceral emotional impact. It’s a music that aims to deliver to the listener even the smallest notion of its creator’s incredible passion. Huge rhythmsand dulcet counterpoint, playfulness and humor juxtaposed with plaintive melody, the fact that all of their albums have been live concert recordings: all of these serve as direct conduits of music-making passion. An Angles tune is designed to elevate musician and listener together to a shared, ecstatic plane. Foremost, it is a music of feeling.

One of the many pleasures of following Angles over the years has also been hearing the wayKüchen’s pieces have developed along with the band. The overlap in tunes on previous albums continues here: In Our Midst’s other offerings include “Every Woman is a Tree” from their debut, and the title track from last year’s By Way of Deception. “Every Woman is a Tree” has a fairly standard jazz tune structure, and has served as one of few vehicles for extended soloing by Küchen. Here, it takes on an all-new intensity, beginning with an angular piano vamp before ramping up to the head. The band now has many more possibilities behind the long solo in the mid-section: first, a monstrous bearing-down on the hypnotic beat; then multi-octave rephrasings of the main theme; finally, out-and-out improvised mayhem. The song sounds more urgent and cathartic than ever before. Similarly, “By Way of Deception” feels far more primal, the band muscling through the first portion of the song like brutes on a rampage.

On one level, you could say In Our Midst is more of the same from Angles. To my mind, that will continue to be a reason to get excited. But it’s a sentiment that oversimplifies: these songs may be familiar, but like the very best musical acts, Angles makes them feel new each time they’re heard.

Squid’s Ear review Florence Wetzel

CF256Angles 8 – By Way of Deception, Live in Ljubjana (CF 256)
This powerful live recording from the Swedish group Angles is a welcome addition to the fine tradition of protest music. The “deception” in the title can be interpreted many ways, but surely it refers in part to the Western leaders who live at an emotional distance from the wars they wage abroad. Yet despite the machinations of the leaders, the people of the world can always find mutual ground, particularly through the common denominator of music. With Angles’ latest release, they face the deception head-on: this is music by the people for the people, with the hope of waking up the people.

Angles normally has six members, but for their 2011 performance at the 52nd Ljubljana Jazz Festival they added a second saxophonist and a pianist. The extra sax lends vigor to their already potent front line of trombone, trumpet, and sax, and the piano finds a cousin in the group’s vibraphone, that beautifully resonant instrument so woefully underrepresented in avant-free groups. The audience is also a member of the group, energizing the band through their receptivity and appreciation, and adding a lift to the music that can be felt even via a recording.

The CD starts off with the twenty-minute “By Way of Deception,” an urgent song that sweeps up the listener with its vitality and jubilant energy. The song is full of shifting interludes with threads of folk music, displaying the group’s mighty front line as well as exquisite interplay between different instrumental combinations. “Dactyloscopy” is a wild and woolly dance, a mighty burst of chaos that highlights the musicians’ mobility and great freedom of expression. “Today Is Better than Tomorrow” is a tuneful, stately piece that’s deeply heartfelt, and “Let’s Speak about the Weather (and Not about the War)” is full of playful rhythms, including some shining vibraphone work. The performance closes with the thirty-minute tour de force “Don’t Ruin Me / Let’s Tear the Threads of Trust,” a grand exploration that includes full-on cacophony with all hands on deck, plus sparer interludes with splendid bass and piano solos.

This music is on fire — it’s full of passion and purpose, and it brings to the fore the talents of these eight excellent musicians as they speak their truth through sound. A world without deception is surely possible, but for true change to occur, everyone will need to summon up their highest abilities and deepest aspirations. By creating music that is simultaneously a call to arms and a joyful celebration, Angles 8 is certainly doing their part.  

Jazz.pt review by José Pessoa

Martin Küchen – Histórias da vida

Também se narra com sons e este saxofonista sueco é perito nisso. Ainda vão a tempo de ouvir os filmes áudio a que deu os títulos “Bruder Beda” e “By Way of Deception”. Já fazem parte da história do jazz europeu e são incontornáveis.

Trespass Trio – Bruder Beda (CF 251)
Angles 8 – By Way of Deception – Live in Ljubljana (CF 256)
Classificação: 4,5/5
Não terá sido por acaso que os novos títulos do Trespass Trio e dos Angles, desta vez em formato de octeto (são habitualmente seis os seus integrantes), saíram ao público em simultâneo. O saxofonista sueco Martin Küchen sabe bem o que faz, tem-nos vindo a encantar com a qualidade, a profundidade e a intensidade dos seus trabalhos, e gosta de fazer entradas em grande.   “Bruder Beda” (Trespass Trio) e “By Way of Deception” (Angles 8) são ambos projectos de narrativa musical, debruçando-se sobre as injustiças e insanidades do mundo actual.
Küchen tem já uma notável experiência como compositor de música programática destinada ao cinema, à dança e ao teatro. Essa faceta surge igualmente na sua actividade nas áreas do jazz e da improvisação livre – é notável a sua capacidade para nos contar histórias ou apresentar situações que conseguimos visualizar.
CF 251Em conjunto com o contrabaixista Per Zanussi e com o baterista/percussionista Raymond Strid, apresenta-nos um álbum verdadeiramente conceptual. Fala-nos “Bruder Beda” de Ernst Gerson, um soldado veterano condecorado na Primeira Guerra Mundial que entra num mosteiro católico e adopta o nome de Irmão Beda.
Quando sai do recolhimento religioso, em 1933, as suas raízes judaicas impedem-no de trabalhar na Alemanha, pelo que vai para a Áustria e aí abriga-se em outro convento, este de convicção protestante. Dois anos mais tarde é convidado a sair. Por decreto, a partir de 1939 obrigam-no a acrescentar um apelido ao seu nome, “Israel”.
Sem sucesso, escreve ao Führer com uma reclamação “arisches Blut”. Torna-se automaticamente num traidor, num cristão “não-ariano”, num pária. É feito prisioneiro e finalmente enviado para o campo de Theresienstadt, onde ajudou a formar uma congregação católica e terá sido obrigado a ensinar crianças não-arianas). Em 1944, mandam-no para Auschwitz. Não se sabe se sobreviveu ao extermínio, por haver indícios de outra pessoa com o mesmo nome.
Para reflectir e emocionar   Será surpreendente tal história no contexto do jazz? De facto, poucos artistas seriam capazes de colocar tanta exuberância, paixão e hiper-expressiva vitalidade em jogos musicais que nos fazem reflectir e emocionar com o relato. É, no entanto, algo de pessoalmente vivido por Küchen: o frade era seu tio.
Küchen usa, tanto no sax alto como no barítono, um som cru de uma intensidade, por vezes, dolorosa, ficando a secção rítmica com muito espaço para seu apoio, para solar e para desenvolver experimentações sonoras introvertidas. Zanussi é, claramente, uma âncora para o grupo e Strid move-se com destreza e minimalmente, sempre com um aguçado sentido tímbrico.
A música aqui tocada é, naturalmente, mais intimista do que com o projecto Angles, ainda que não necessariamente menos enérgica, dado o contagiante sentido de urgência. Uma faixa fundamenal é “Today is Better than Tomorrow”, uma composição de Küchen cuja melodia encerra uma tristeza plena de poesia.   Este é um álbum que nunca recorre à superficialidade, um álbum conquistado com inteligência, sofisticação e nuance, um trabalho ímpar profundamente emotivo e cativante.
CF256A gravação ao vivo dos Angles 8 foi realizada no Festival de Jazz de Ljubljana, surgindo na colecção Ljubljana Jazz Series da editora portuguesa, e constitui um passo mais na sua dedicação às grandes formações.
Antes desta ocasião a fórmula Angles tivera uma geometria pouco variável, sendo em geral o grupo integrado por Mattias Ståhl, Magnus Broo, Mats Äleklint, Kjell Nordeson e Johan Bertling. Assim foi em “Every Woman is a Tree”, dedicado às mulheres iraquianas, e “Epileptical West – Live In Coimbra”. Ambos verdadeiros gritos de protesto contra o estado das coisas no mundo em que vivemos.
Na configuração que se ouviu na Eslovénia, Goran Kajfes substituiu Broo no trompete e o sexteto virou octeto com a adição de Eirik Hegdal nos saxofones e de Alexander Zethson no piano. A música que esta pequena “big band” faz inspira-se na Liberation Music Orchestra e nos grandes ensembles de Charles Mingus. É uma música directa, feita com transparência e sinceridade, com efeito cinemático ou teatral e por vezes grande emotividade.
É uma música apaixonada, sugestiva e brilhante, que dá predominância ao colectivo através dos contributos das vozes individuais. Essas vozes fazem-se sentir sem restrição, mas sabiamente colocadas em coesão.
Apela-se explicitamente aos ritmos latinos e africanos e a composição inclui elementos da música popular e mesmo da fanfarra (Ayler haveria de ter gostado). Esta não é nenhuma forma esotérica de free jazz – é um grito à vida e um apelo com sentido à nossa memória auditiva.

Diario de Noticias review by João Moço

Concerto que o coletivo Angles (transformado em octeto) deu no 52.º Festival de Jazz de Liubliana foi recentemente editado pela Clean Feed.

Angles 8 – By Way of Deception – Live in Ljubljana (CF 256)
Classificação: 4/5

No final dos anos 60 o contrabaixista Charlie Haden criou a Liberation Music Orchestra, uma das mais ricas formações de jazz da época e que teve um papel preponderante na forma como esta música tem também um implícito carácter político.

Ao ouvirmos o recente By Way of Deception – Live in Ljubljana, gravação em disco do concerto que o coletivo Angles (transformado em octeto para essa noite) deu na 52.ª edição do Festival de Jazz de Liubliana a referência à Liberation Music Orchestra é clara.

Uma composição como Let Speak About Weather (and not about war) é apenas um exemplo da mensagem política e social que o saxofonista Martin Küchen (o líder e autor de todas as composições do grupo) quer transmitir com a sua música. Música esta habilmente orquestrada, assente na liberdade criativa do jazz contemporâneo, ao mesmo tempo que assimila outros universos sonoros mais distantes do jazz.

Neste By Way of Deception são assimiladas músicas dos Balcãs, percussões tribais que remontam para África, mas esse cruzamento nunca abandona a essência do jazz. Essa integração de outras músicas torna-se parte intrinseca e fundamental das composições, que não escondem a sua vertente dramática.

Nesta altura de convulsões sociais por toda a Europa, este novo álbum dos Angles acaba por ter um significado ainda maior.

Blow Up Magazine review by Enrico Bettinello

Angles 8 By Way Of Deception (CF 256)
Trespass Trio Bruder Beda (CF 251)
Irriducibile a ogni classificazione, originalissimo e politico, fortemente immerso nella tradizione di ricerca, ma al tempo stesso portatore instancabile di un approccio ellittico alla creazione musicale, il sassofonista svedese Martin Küchen ha trovato nel progetto Angles uno dei suoi esiti più coinvolgenti.

In “By Way Of Deception”, registrato al Festival di Ljubljana dello scorso anno [dove fecero anche una sortita nelle strade], il sestetto si amplia a ottetto con l’aggiunta di pianoforte e di un altro sassofono e la musica è un’esplosione di idee e colori. Tenendo come punto di riferimento la Liberation Music Orchestra di Charlie Haden, Küchen e soci esplorano con una visceralità contagiosa temi innervati di grande cantabilità come la title-track o la indimenticabile Today Is Better Than Tomorrow, per giungere al bellissimo affresco conclusivo di Don’t Ruin Me/Let’s Tear The Threads Of Trust. Musica collettiva e condivisiva, sostenuta in modo eccellente da individualità come il vibrafonista Mattias Ståhl o il trombonista Mats Aleklint [per non dire della travolgente ritmica composta da Johan Berthling e Kjell Nordeson] e capace di riaccendere con semplicità detonante la miccia di un jazz armato di violenta dolcezza. Fantastico!

Küchen è anche leader del Trespass Trio, con Per Zanussi al contrabbasso e Raymond Strid alla batteria: incentrato sulla tortuosa storia del monaco Bruder Beda, ebreo, poi cattolico, poi laico, poi deportato nei campi di concentramento, il nuovo disco del trio conferma sia la forte carica politica della musica del sassofonista, sia la musicalità alternata tra furore e inquieto lirismo. Momento di grazia per Martin Küchen.

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

Angles 8 - By Way of Deception, Live in Ljubljana (CF 256)
Today, the second of two Clean Feed Live at Ljubljana Jazz Festival disks covered this week (Monday I covered one by Igor Lumpert’s Trio). The Swedish large ensemble Angles 8 steps forward for their lively set Angles of Deception (Clean Feed 256). Martin Kuchen’s compositions, direction, and alto sax are what is primarily motoring this band, and they come across especially here with a kind of joyful Afro-riffing that shows the positive influence of Ornette, Sun Ra, the “ethnic” side of Don Cherry and the buoyancy of Pierre Dorge’s New Jungle Orchestra.   It’s Martin and seven other well-healed musicians from Europe (trombone, trumpet, baritone-soprano, alto, vibes, piano, bass and drums) igniting five of Kuchen’s pieces in a very lively manner.   All the front liners can solo and do so freely and sometimes collectively, while riffs and counterlines take off and rock the house.   It’s a first-rate band doing first-rate music. Afro-free jazz on fire! Be sure and get an earful of this one. It’s quite excellent, really. Encore!

Free Jazz review by Stef Gissels

Angles 8 – By Way Of Deception – Live In Ljubljana (CF 256)
I had the honor of writing the liner notes for this fantastic album by one of my favorite bands, recorded live in Ljubljana, Slovenia on July 1, 2011. The band is Martin Küchen on alto sax, Alexander Zethson on piano, Eirik Hegdal on baritone and sopranino saxophones, Goran Kajfes on trumpet, Johan Berthling on double bass, Kjell Nordeson on drums,  Mats Äleklint on trombone, Mattias Ståhl on vibes. Check out their other albums too.

Here are the liner notes :

“The music on this album is dedicated to creating a better world; a world without war and killing, without poverty and exploitation; a world where men of all governments realize the vital importance of life and strive to protect rather than destroy it. We hope to see a new society of enlightenment and wisdom where creative thought becomes the most dominant force in all people’s lives”, Charlie Haden writes in the liner notes to the debut album of the Liberation Music Orchestra in 1969.

And it could have been written for Angles, a band that draws from the same well, both politically and musically. In its two previous albums, as on this one, Angles has a clear message against war and violence, against the terror and horror in our Vietnams of today, now located in the Middle-East, tomorrow possibly – and unfortunately probably – elsewhere again.

The musical link is as strong, drawing from an even deeper well, a source of sounds evoking the collectively shared sadness and revolt of common people, building on traditions of village wedding and funeral bands, playing music that is the emanation of their sentiments, with phrases that bounce off cobbled streets and melodies that resonate in dusty market squares. The ancient folk traditions are palpable: you can hear the European fanfare or brass bands, mixed with Latin echoes in the soloing on “Afternoon/By Way Of Deception”, the long first track, or tribal African rhythms in the percussive parts, with wisps of Balkan brass. By analogy, listen back to the Liberation Music Orchestra, listen to the great compositions “Nkosi Sikelel’i Afrika”, “Song For Ché”, “Sandino” or “La Passionaria”.

The themes here are equally grand and elaborate, with melodies that touch you deep in your heart with a strong feeling of an indefinable truth, melodies that keep repeating in your brain, with the cinematic power of a Nino Rota soundtrack, tunes and sounds that all of us have deeply ingrained in our unconscious, the universal feelings that we all share, with rhythms that come from life itself, fast at times, full of drama, full of anger, or slow, to commemorate the ones who came before, equally dramatic, full of sadness, and with improvisations that articulate the distress but also the jubilation of the individuals in that community, glorious, spiraling, serpentine, like the trance-like intertwining phrases of reed instruments in Berber bands, the unpolished raw yet mesmerizing interplay of African wedding music. This is not jazz, but a synthesis of real authentic music throughout the ages and cultures, rendered all the more powerful because of its modern format and virtuosic playing.

The idea to make the Angles sextet into an octet was a good one, making the sound fuller, giving more volume, offering more opportunities for contrast and depth, and making the grand themes even more sweeping and majestic. This is music for everyone to join in.

It is not a surprise that the band’s third album is also the third live recording, since the closeness to an audience seems critical, as a sounding board, as a prerequisite like the bands in the street, it is their feelings that are evoked and expressed. It is all about the audience. This is not the music for abstractions, individual artistic expressions or for esoteric elitism, this is music that resonates with immediate effect, hopefully also with lasting effect, contrasting the joy and the sadness, the laments and outcries. Yet don’t be mistaken, the music is carefully crafted and orchestrated, including sudden and unexpected rhythm changes, subtle and sensitive calmer moments, high speed unison lines, that unravel and reconstitute, with soaring improvisations, but it is the overall sound, the combined power that is the real hero here. It is agitating, gripping, irresistible, enchanting, enthralling, hypnotic, spellbinding, compelling, inciting you to join in, to be swept away by the collective feelings and aspirations.

The idea of communal music is to express the sentiments of those present, to give a voice to collective emotions that are too complex to articulate, except by music, except by great music. Liberating music.”

Le Son du Grisli review by Guillaume Belhomme

Angles 8 – By Way of Deception (CF 256)
Si Angles – autre groupe qu’emmène Küchen avec cette « sorte de jazz » en tête – n’est pas le projet le plus enthousiasmant du saxophoniste, il n’en est pas moins capable de surprises. Dans sa version octette, enregistré à Lubiana l’année dernière, il revêt ainsi les atours d’un marching band profitant de gimmicks renforcés ou jouant des collisions provoquées par un soudain embouteillage (Dactyloscopy). On peut regretter que tous les membres de l’orchestre n’aient pas le charisme de leur meneur : à défaut, certains démontrent une implication féroce (Eirik Hegdal aux saxophones, et Kjell Nordeson, batteur d’Exploding Customer).

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

Angles’ “Epileptical West” for Some Significant Ensemble Jazz

Angles – Epileptical West Live in Coimbra (CF 182)
Angles and their recent Epileptical West (Clean Feed 182) live record exemplify what a fully realized ensemble vision can do for the new music scene. Angles at this juncture is a six-man outfit. Altoist Martin Kuchen wrote the pieces in this set. The band as a whole crafted the arrangements. That band includes Mattias Stahl on vibes, Magnus Broo, trumpet, Mats Aleklint, trombone, Kjell Nordeson, drums, and Johan Berthling on the acoustic bass.

This is joyously boisterous music. The ensemble plays with a kind of boundless enthusiasm that one all-to-seldom hears today. Listen to “Pygmi” and its adaptation of the pygmy vocal style to the ensemble. It’s a freely articulated full-throttle groove with convincing solos by the horns. It has that classic Art Ensemble/Archie Shepp/Sunny Murray inspired abandon, and it is not untypical of what you get on this fine release.

And like the ensembles/artists mentioned above, they can take on something like a kind of funk and transform it entirely into a freely conjoined blastout. Each of the horns gives out with strong solos, the vibraphonist is a centrifugal-centripetal force in keeping the music spinning (while also doing interesting solo work himself) and drummer Nordeson keep the spirit-level elevated with over-the-top bashing. Berthling’s bass solidly pins down the bottom of the sound.

It is ultimately the sheer power of the band as ensemble that puts this recording into orbit.

Here’s a band I would go see with a feeling of happy expectation. I can’t always say that. The recording translates perfectly well the sort of energy a live outing quite obviously brings out in the band. Wow. What a nice thing this band is! Highly recommended.

Time Out Lisboa review by Jose Carlos Fernandes

Angles – Epileptical West (CF 182)

A mudança de inquilino na Casa Branca não minorou o desencantamento de Martin Küchen, saxofonista e líder do colectivo sueco Angles, nem desanuviou o seu diagnóstico do estado do mundo. Se no anterior Every Woman Is a Tree havia um “Peace Is Not For Us”, neste há um “Today Is Better Than Tomorrow” – não contem com ele para optimismos.

Mas deixemos o (não muito articulado) discurso político de Küchen e passemos à música: os elogios dispensados a Every Woman Is a Tree merecem ser reforçados neste CD, gravado ao vivo no Salão Brazil, em Coimbra, durante o Festival Jazz Ao Centro de 2009. O sexteto está mais solto e afoito e a qualidade de som supera a do registo anterior – e supera também as primeiras gravações no Salão Brazil, o que mostra que a engenharia da Clean Feed conseguiu debelar a acústica ingrata da sala.

Küchen, Magnus Broo (trompete), Mats Aleklint (trombone), Mattias Stahl (vibrafone), Johan Berthling (contrabaixo) e Kjell Nordeson (bateria) passam facilmente do lamento à celebração, da fúria à hipnose. Podem soar tão densos como uma big band, mas o vibrafone introduz uma leveza extra-terrena. Em “Present Absentees/Pygmees” um trombone exuberante arrasta o grupo para uma dança jubilatória de sabor africano, o tema-título abre ao rubro, passa por contagiante groove rock e incendeia-se em fanfarras dementes, “En Svensk Brownie” tem riffs endemoninhados sobre vibrafone enfeitiçante e bateria metronómica, “Every Woman Is a Tree” (uma revisitação) é galvanizado por solos de sax e trompete de alta voltagem.

Epileptical West não substituirá Norah Jones nos iPods de gestores e analistas financeiros, mas encontrará lugar junto de quem acredita que o jazz não é um fundo sonoro para acompanhar um bom whisky.