Tag Archives: Johan Berthling

Dusted in Exile review by Bill Meyer

CF303Angles 9 – Injuries (CF 303)
By the time Charlie Haden founded the Liberation Music Orchestra in 1969, the link between free jazz and the American freedom struggle was well established. By having his large band perform arrangements of tunes from the Spanish Civil War, he broadened that association and aligned the music with a worldwide struggle against brutality and injustice.

The LMO’s example may well have been on Swedish saxophonist Martin Küchen’s mind as he has grown Angles into its current nine-piece configuration. Not only is Küchen an unabashedly political artist determined to call out fascism and warmongering, he’s also, like Haden, a musician of broad musical interests. Küchen is equally persuasive playing ultra-minimal whispers with the trio Looper, peeling back the paint in full-on free jazz mode with the Trespass Trio, and using stark melodies to embody anguish in solo performances.

Angles is his forum for composition and arrangement. With five horns, a vibraphone, rhythm section, and a pair of pianos on hand, played by great players including Johan Berthling, Magnus Broo, and Mattias Ståhl, it affords him a deep store of sonic and emotional resources, and he makes good use of both. Injuries was recorded in a studio that was once a movie theater, and its spaciousness may well have contributed to the album’s clear presentation of some outsized instrumental voices. On “European Boogie,” you get the feel of air moving back and forth as keyboard and mallets exchange patterns, and the contrasting densities of massed brass, suspended vibes, and low, swaggering drumbeats on the South African-flavored “Ubabba” convey a sense of vertical space; this music feels like it stands tall.

The music’s emotional range is as broad as its sound. While “Ubabba” engenders infectious jubilation, the title tune’s Iberian-tinged theme expresses an Ayler-esque degree of pathos. And while it’s not exactly rare for people to try and play like Albert Ayler nowadays, it’s another thing entirely to plumb his extremes of joy and despair. Ayler wanted to heal the world with music; the record’s liner notes articulate the realization that no single revolution is going to redeem mankind. The job will never be over, and thus there will always be a need for artists like Küchen to both challenge and uplift with stout-hearted passion, disciplined musical organization, and a facility with a sturdy tune. The struggle continues.


Expresso review by João Santos


Adam Lane’s Full Throttle Orchestra – Live in Ljubljana (CF 307)
Angles 9 – Injuries (CF 303)
Lane quase que abre demasiado o jogo, nas notas de apresentação, referindo Duke, Mingus, Muhal ou Parliament. Ao introduzir ‘Ashcan Rantings’, incorpora na sua exposição ao contrabaixo os nomes de Jimmy Blanton, Richard Davis ou Bootsy Collins. Com orgulho proletário, menciona ainda os de James Jamerson e Carol Kaye. Soa, por vezes, mais convincente do que aquilo que na realidade é. Mas há muito que não surgia um octeto, assim, apto em ir de “Birth of the New Cool” (Sonny Criss, com arranjos de Horace Tapscott) até, digamos, a “Ming” (David Murray), ficando apenas a dever ao nível da capacidade de síntese e da agilidade nas dinâmicas. Ilustra um namoro de verão com formas canónicas – trazendo à memória Don Ellis – e possui fundações edificadas a partir de robustas linhas de baixo que não destoariam num álbum de Graham Collier. Cada um dos seus solistas comanda atenções como uma avioneta a sobrevoar praias. Já Martin Küchen, à frente de nove executantes, redige no livreto qualquer coisa com a pertinência de uma bula num genérico. No seu pior, lembra o que fariam Archie Shepp, Gato Barbieri ou Carla Bley com as compilações “Éthiopiques” no gira-discos. Mas também põe a descoberto uma beleza a todos os níveis planificada que praticamente desapareceu do jazz de hoje.

Free Jazz Best of 2014

Albums of the Year – 2014
So another year and another 1500 albums considered for review (and that’s just the ones we actually added to the list!). Taking a quick look back: this year Julian, Matthew, Chris, Ed, Antonio, Stefan, Josh, and Hugo joined the review team and we recently welcomed Eyal and Alfonso – you’ll be seeing more of them soon. 2014 also saw Martin Schray bringing the Free Jazz Blog to the air on SWR2, public radio in southern Germany. His next show is on the 9th of January (stay tuned for more info on that!). Finally, thanks to all of you, we’re seeing upwards of 75,000 page views a month and have a growing subscriber base … all we can (and should) say is thank you everyone and keep listening!

And now here it is … our hotly anticipated top ten list of albums of the year, tallied and calculated from the collective’s personal top 10 album choices (listed below):

The Free Jazz Collective Top-10 albums of 2014

1.Steve Lehman Octet – Mise en Abîme
2.Akira Sakata, Johan Berthling, Paal Nilssen-Love – Arashi
3.Jemeel Moondoc – The Zookeeper’s House
4.Angles 9 – Injuries (CF 303)
5.Audio One – An International Report
6.Farmers By Nature – Love and Ghosts
7.Ken Vandermark/Paal Nilssen-Love Duo – Lightning Over Water
8.Marc Ribot Trio – Live at the Village Vanguard
9.Wadada Leo Smith – The Great Lakes Suites
10.Jeremiah Cymerman – Pale Horse / Lotte Anker & Jakob Riis – Squid Police

Troy Dostert
CF 292

1.Steve Lehman Octet, Mise en Abîme
2.Marty Ehrlich Large Ensemble – Trumpet in the Morning
3.Franco D’Andrea Sextet – Monk and the Time Machine
4.Kris Davis Trio – Waiting for You to Grow (CF 292)
5.Ivo Perelman – The Other Edge
6.Ken Vandermark/Paal Nilssen-Love Duo – Lightning Over Water
7.Peter Van Huffel – Boom Crane
8.Angles 9 – Injuries
9.Max Johnson – Invisible Trio
10.Audio One – An International Report

Julian Eidenberger

1.Akira Sakata, Johan Berthling, Paal Nilssen-Love – Arashi
2.Kyle Bruckmann’s Wrack – … Awaits Silent Tristero’s Empire
3.Steve Lehman Octet – Mise en Abîme
4.Anthony Braxton, Tom Rainey, Tomas Fujiwara – Trio New Haven 2013
5.Audio One – An International Report
6.Many Arms with Colin Fisher – Suspended Definition
7.Lean Left – Live at Area Sismica
8.Joe Morris Quartet – Balance (CF 306)
9.Yoni Kretzmer, Pascal Niggenkemper, Weasel Walter – Protest Music
10.Wadada Leo Smith, Jamie Saft, Joe Morris, Balázs Pándi – Red Hill

Matthew Grigg
CF300LPSHH 010
1.Pharoah & the Underground – Spiral Mercury/Primative Jupiter (CF 300)
2.Audio One – An International Report/The Midwest School
3.Nicole Mitchell’s Black Earth Ensemble – Xenogenesis II: Intergalactic Beings
4.Nate Wooley, Hugo Antunes, Chris Corsano – Malus
5.Thurston Moore, Gabriel Ferrandini, Pedro Sousa – Live at ZDB (SHH 010)
6.Peter Evans Quintet – Destination:Void
7.Broetzmann, Adasiewicz, Edwards, Noble – Mental Shake
8.Roscoe Mitchell/Mike Reed – In Pursuit of Magic
9.Jason Ajemain, Tony Malaby, Rob Mazurek, Chad Taylor – A Way A Land of Life
10.Marc Ribot Trio – Live at the Village Vanguard

Chris Haines
CF306CF295  CF2941.Joe Morris Quartet – Balance (CF 306)
2.Sei Miguel – Salvation Modes (CF 295)
3.Eric Revis – In Memory of Things Yet Seen (CF 294)
4.Jakob Thorkild Trio – Art Sleaze
5.Tisziji Munoz – Star Worlds
6.Ken Aldcroft – Threads 10/09/11
7.Marc Ribot – Live at the Village Vanguard
8.Andymusic – Heavydance
9.Tomas Fujiwara Trio – Variable Bets
10.Tellef Ogrim & Anders Berg – November

Antonio Poscic

1.Wadada Leo Smith – The Great Lakes Suites
2.Steve Lehman Octet – Mise en Abîme
3.DKV Trio – Sound in Motion in Sound
4.Farmers By Nature – Love and Ghosts
5.Lotte Anker & Jakob Riis – Squid Police
6.Jeremiah Cymerman – Pale Horse
7.Angles 9 – Injuries (CF 303)
8.Tyshawn Sorey Trio – Alloy
9.Zion 80 – Adramelech: Book of Angels, Vol. 22
10.Jemeel Moondoc – The Zookeeper’s House

Dan Sorrells
1.Daunik Lazro, Benjamin Duboc, Didier Lassere – Sens Radiants
2.Wacław Zimpel To Tu Orchestra – Nature Moves
3.Benjamin Duboc – St. James Infirmary
4.Zanussi Five – Live in Coimbra (CF 314)
5.Angles 9 – Injuries (CF 303)
6.Max Johnson, Ingrid Laubrock, Mat Maneri, Tomas Fujiwara – The Prisoner
7.Keir Neuringer – Ceremonies Out of the Air
8.Jeremiah Cymerman, Evan Parker, Nate Wooley – World of Objects
9.RED Trio & Mattias Ståhl – North and the Red Stream
10.Michael Francis Duch – Tomba Emmanuelle

Hugo Truyens
1.De Beren Gieren & Susana Santos Silva – The Detour Fish (CF 317)
2.1000 + 1 – Butterfly Garden
3.East of the Sun – ICP Orchestra
4.Os Meus Shorts – Os Meus Shorts II
5.Sylvain Rifflet & Jon Irabagon – Perpetual Motion (A Celebration of Moondog)
6.Baloni – Belleke (CF 305)
7.Ideal Bread Beating The Teens – Songs Of Steve Lacy
8.Franco D’Andrea Sextet – Monk and the Time Machine
9.Marc Ribot Trio – Live at the Village Vanguard
10.Sylvie Courvoisier – Mark Feldman Quartet Birdies for Lulu


Wondering Sound Best of 2014 list by Staff Contributor

To outsiders, jazz has the tendency to seem like an ossified genre — “serious” records for “serious” people, with anything significant having happened decades ago. If you needed any more proof that this thinking is absolutely ridiculous, this list is it. Here are 25 records from artists that are bold, brash, exciting and forward-thinking, unafraid of flirting with other genres, but reconfiguring them into something new and daring. The 25 Best Jazz Albums of 2014 represent the vanguard of contemporary music, pushing things forward one note at a time.

25. Rafael Karlen – The Sweetness of Things Half-Remembered (Pinnacles Music / CD Baby)
CF30324. Angles 9 – Injuries (Clean Feed)
23. The Cookers – Time and Time Again (Motema Music,Llc / Entertainment One Distribution)
22. Tyshawn Sorey Trio – Alloy (Pi Recordings)
21. Jane Ira Bloom – Sixteen Sunsets (Pure Audio)
20. Get the Blessing – Lope and Antilope (Naim Jazz / The Orchard)
19. Sam Newsome – The Straight Horn of Africa: A Path of Liberation (CD Baby)
18. Omer Avital – New Song (Motema Music,Llc / Entertainment One Distribution)
17. Steve Wilson/Lewis Nash Duo – Duologue (MCG Jazz)
16. The Bad Plus – The Rite of Spring (Masterworks)
15. John Ellis & Andy Bragen – MOBRO (MRI / The Orchard)
14. The Westerlies – Wish the Children Would Come On Home (Songlines Recordings / The Orchard)
13. Darius Jones and Matthew Shipp, Cosmic Lieder – The Darkseid Recital (AUM Fidelity / Virtual)
12. Billy Hart Quartet – One Is the Other (ECM)
11. Miguel Zenon – Identities Are Changeable (Miel Music / CD Baby)
10. Farmers By Nature – Love and Ghosts (AUM Fidelity / Virtual)
CF 2929. Kris Davis Trio – Waiting for You to Grow (Clean Feed)
8. Orrin Evans’ Captain Black Big Band – Mother’s Touch (Posi-Tone Records / The Orchard)
7. Melissa Aldana & Crash Trio – Melissa Aldana & Crash Trio (Concord)
6. Oliver Lake Organ Quartet – What I Heard (Passin’ Thru)
5. Mitchell/Taborn/Baku – Conversations II (Wide Hive Records)
CF3014. Pharoah & the Underground – Spiral Mercury (Clean Feed)
3. Trio 3 With Vijay Iyer – Wiring (Intakt)
2. Sean Jones – Im•pro•vise (Never Before Seen) (Mack Avenue / The Orchard)
1. Steve Lehman Octet – Mise en Abime (Pi Recordings)


Jazz.pt review by Gonçalo Falcão

CF303Angles 9 – Injuries (CF 303 LP)
Saiu no final de Maio um grande disco da Clean Feed, grande em todos os sentidos, da música à embalagem. Os Angles são uma das bandas fiéis à editora portuguesa: começou por ser um sexteto formado em 2007 por Martin Küchen que lançou dois CDs (“Every Woman is a Tree” em 2008 e “Epileptical West” em 2010) antes de passar a octeto e gravar “By Way of Deception” (2012). de que só existe a prensagem em vinil.

Contámos sempre com uma enorme dose de intensidade, assente numa fortíssima secção de metais. A música tem uma espécie de jingado soul, que atravessa os temas com melodias atraentes que são entregues com a força e a atitude do “combat rock”. Nas palavras de Küchen: «Bagaloo music for fiesta and contemplation».

O LP duplo da nova formação, que passou a noneto, vem finalmente embalado como deve ser (bom cartão, boa gramagem, com uma imagem de capa fortíssima: os oito expedicionários que acompanharam o norueguês Nansen Fram em 1893, na tentativa (falhada) de pela primeira vez chegar ao Polo Norte. Depois de dois ensaios pouco conseguidos com os Made to Break e o anterior Angles, desta vez a Clean Feed lançou um LP com uma óptima relação táctil e sensorial. E os objectos contam.

«A maior parte de nós fica para trás. Não vamos. Não conseguimos. Ficamos. A maior parte de nós fica», diz-nos o texto de apresentação, que fala de mudança. “Combat jazz”. Entramos no lado A do primeiro vinil pela porta grande, com “European Boogie” e “Eti”, temas rápidos, impulsionadores. O lado B muda completamente de ambiente e toca lento, com enorme beleza lírica. Imóveis, funerários, não são propriamente entrópicos e não convidam a um avanço ponderado. Grande solo to trombone de Mats Äleklint.

O segundo disco mantém a oscilação entre o soul/funk e temas mais contemplativos, que dão vontade de mergulhar na música. Acaba em ambiente festivo. O grupo tem uma enorme leveza e um ritmo acelerado, os solos são magníficos e sempre interessantes de seguir, a composição é alegre e motivadora. Uma escrita belíssima e cantável que dá vontade de dançar.

Tenho assistido frequentemente à comparação deste “Injuries” com a Liberation Music Orchestra de Charlie Haden, o que se deve, provavelmente, ao sabor alegre e libertário da música. Mas é uma descendência que lhe fica curta: o que se ouve em “Injuries” é muito mais consciente, maduro, objectivo e swingante.

A Liberation marcha, os Angles dançam, festejam. São psicossociais, lutadores e esperançosos. Devêmo-lo ao punk, que nos salvou de toda a ingenuidade.


The Squid’s Ear review by John Eyles

CF303Angles 9 –  Injuries (CF 303)
Angles 9 is the latest edition of the ensemble convened by saxophonist Martin Küchen in 2007 as Angles 6 which, by 2011, had expanded to Angles 8. It is a stunning nonet of some of Scandinavia’s finest improvising players, including Küchen himself on alto and tenor saxes, Eirik Hegdal on baritone and sopranino saxes, double bassist Johan Berthling and drummer Andreas Werliin. Injuries is the second recording by this incarnation of Angles, following In Our Midst (Clean Feed, 2013) the beautiful title track of which is reprised here. That album was only released on vinyl, while Injuries is available either as a gatefold double vinyl album or on CD. It features seven Küchen compositions, all arranged by the entire ensemble, imbuing them with an appealingly loose collective feel. The front line of two saxophones, cornet, trumpet and trombone packs a hefty punch and is ably supported by the rhythm section of bass, drums and piano — plus the crucial inclusion of Mattias Ståhl on vibraphone, which gives the music a lightness reminiscent of Bobby Hutcherson’s role with Eric Dolphy.

Across the album, there is great variety in the music, with extreme changes of mood between tracks, seemingly corresponding to the different sides of the vinyl edition. So, side one is upbeat and energetic: the opener “European Boogie”, underpinned throughout by Ståhl, is driven along by powerful ensemble horn riffs interspersed with some fine free blowing, notably from trumpeter Magnus Broo; “Efi”, also propelled by a riff overlaid with criss-cross soloing, effortlessly sustains the high energy level. The transition to side two’s single extended track, “A Desert on Fire, a Forest / I’ve Been Lied To”, is dramatic as it is more sedately paced and atmospheric, spotlighting the rhythm section rather than the front line, with pianist Alexander Zethson in fine form. Although radically different, taken together these two sides emphasise the ingredients that are key to the success of Injuries — there is not a wasted note or ounce of flab in evidence, with every single member of the ensemble being a first-rate instrumentalist who is full of ideas.

Berthling and Werliin are also two thirds of the renowned Fire! Trio (with saxophonist Mats Gustafsson) and that trio are at the heart of the more recently created — and much praised — Fire! Orchestra, where they were also joined by Küchen on the orchestra’s 2014 release Enter; Broo and trombonist Mats Äleklint are also members — making a total of five Angles 9 members who are in the Fire! Orchestra. While comparing contrasting ensembles can frequently be deceptive, in this case the shared membership makes comparison irresistible. Despite being one third the size of the orchestra, by comparison Angles 9 does not lack firepower. Rather, the nine-piece seems lighter on its feet than the orchestra of twenty-plus members and it fizzes with the energy and exuberance that the Fire! Orchestra can occasionally miss. Altogether, Injuries demonstrates that, while size undoubtedly does matter, bigger is not always better. End result: it is one of 2014’s very best albums. Stunning.

Available on double vinyl and CD


Free Jazz review by Antonio Poscic

CF303Angles 9 – Injuries (CF 303)
It’s no secret that saxophonist and composer Martin Küchen and the various incarnations of his Angles group are quite beloved on the Free Jazz Blog. Not without reason since it can seem, at times, that Angles under Küchen’s guidance really are incapable of producing mediocre music. “Injuries” is another release by the Angles nonet, Angles 9, and the musicians and their music remain as wonderful as they’ve ever been.

Martin Küchen and his cohorts present us with big band music that frames grand and expansive moments within minimalist and quite improvisational borders. It is exhilarating, shiver-inducing music, but with a contemplative and spiritual thread passing through it. Imagine that: free, improvised music that you can almost hum and dance to! The record can feel so musical and uplifting at times that you’ll feel guilty for enjoying it so much. And yet, the music never even comes close to being corny or tacky. Instead, it successfully bridges intellectually challenging and emotionally fulfilling sonic dimensions. This is especially evident when the band is at full force, when an incredible energy and passion, a certain pathos almost, starts sweeping over the listener. A pathos that is easily associated with the message that lies in the background. A message that can be interpreted as a warning and a plea for peace, a message that is akin to the voice and ideas behind Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra. Simultaneously, African and Latino rhythms that lurk between the lines, the syncopated drumming, and blaring horn section might remind us of African musicians such as Mulatu Astatke. It all amounts to charged and powerful music, plain and simple.

Take the opening “European Boogie” which booms and swings in the vein of early free jazz, the beautiful “Eti” that is opened by a progression on piano and vibraphone only to be joined by a full-bodied horn section which will send shivers down your spine, “Ubabba” which rocks along with remnants of afrobeat and an inherent sense of joy, or the title track “Injuries” which is a vibrating, nervous, and piano-dominated almost free improv track… There’s something special to be found on each track and hardly any negatives. The only thing that might bother some is the accessibility and a mirage of mundanity of the music, but this is easily and quickly forgotten once you dig into the music and completely fathom the ease with which the band manages their performance. They take simple, memorable themes, and develop the tunes around them, leaving ample space for improvisations which mostly come in the form of interludes between louder, busier group efforts. The rhythm section can feel rather straightforward, but this is down to the somewhat strict role it has in maintaining the band’s cohesiveness. On the other hand, the wind section emerges as the main carrier of themes, introduced quite often by the vibraphone and piano. While a certain level of homogeneity is required and upheld, the musicians are actually given many chances to express themselves. Based on the performances, it would actually be unfair to single out any of the musicians here since they all make significant contributions to the music, both as parts of a whole and as soloists.

I feared, before listening to the album, that recording in a studio rather than in front of a live audience would somehow diminish or harm the rendition of Angles 9’s music. Fortunately, my fears were unfounded since the warmth and exhilaration in their approach are as present as ever and there’s not a sign of straying from the energy that they exhibit while performing live. In closing, I can only say that instead of reading this review you should already be listening and experiencing “Injuries” by yourself. It’s the only way to fully understand.

Available on double vinyl and CD