Angles 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.