Motif – Art Transplant (CF 225)
Sometimes I am unfamiliar with a group, don’t quite know what to expect, and it takes me a few listens to get acclimated. Like with Motif and their Art Transplant (Clean Feed 225).
The CD starts out with a minute or so of quiet air-through-instrument noises and then launches into the first composition, all except one of these written by contrabassist Ole Morten Vagan, who plays a forward role in the album as a bassist with style, imagination and melodic front-line aspirations. Axel Dorner handles the trumpet with some panache. Judging from the title billing (“with…”) and the liner blurb he is a guest on this date. Atle Nemo does some good work on tenor sax and, for one cut, bass clarinet. Pianist Havard Wiik, who we favorably encountered several days ago on the Side A trio session with Ken Vandermark and Chad Taylor, is firmly planted at the center of the proceedings on piano in a role that has something of Andrew Hill’s harmonic-melodic feel to it. Hakon Mjaset Johansen drives loosely on drums.
This is a date the sneaks up on you. The compositions are subtle and filled with some nice twists and turns. The improvisations are avant-melodic, new thing chromatics that expand the tonality to the edge and then bring it back for a moment, only to stray to the edge again. All four melody instruments do something worth hearing, and the drums are charged and give the forward momentum a kick as needed.
By the fourth listen I knew that this had something to it. If you like a freely articulated date with some interesting compositional underpinnings, with an overall thrust not unlike Andrew Hill’s later Blue Notes, this one will take care of your needs and give you pleasure. It’s another one of those Clean Feed sleepers. And it will wake you up. A good go of it!