Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bengt Frippe Nordstrom, Swedish Improviser of Note

The world is filled with good improvisers, though your local late-night newscast probably does not find them newsworthy. That is their loss, but you probably could say that about just about everything worth covering. I speak of commercial American television.

One such example of a very good improviser that gets less attention, at least over here, is the late Swedish reedist Bengt Frippe Nordstrom, who passed from this earth a number of years ago, but lives on in his recordings. Today we look at one recording that is probably not at the top of his discography, but not uninteresting nonetheless.

Frippe's Protocol: The Environmental Control Office, Volume 2 (Ayler Download Series) pits Nordstrom with his long-standing trio of Bjorn Alke, acoustic bass, piano, and Peeter Uuskyla, drums. It was recorded at Norrkoping, Sweden's Museum of Modern Art in 1987. As the liner notes to the release admit, this is not a super high-quality recording. It was recorded to document the session and, while clear, is not ravishing.

By any standard this is not a major Nordstrom release--for that you might browse through the other Nordstrom offerings on Ayler Records. That does not mean it is an easily dismissed release. The group spontaneously. . .well not exactly combusts, but they do pack some gunpowder.

In the course of the more or less hour-long program, covering freely executed numbers that vary from a Swedish folk inflection to "Now's the Time," the trio shows their tight-knit unity in their loose-knit way of going at it. Nordstrom's team mates are double-jointed, they are quite limber and constitute ideal fellow-travelers into the world of the freely improvised collective. Nordstrom has real flair and that comes out on these tracks. On tenor sax, he shows a debt to Albert Ayler in his vibrato, his speech-like utterances and melodic blasts; on clarinet he doesn't especially sound like anybody.

This gives us one more Nordstrom, and for those who look for it, one cannot go wrong here. It is not indispensable. Look to earlier Ayler releases for a jumpstart on that. The music has charm, though. For the Nordstrom fan, certainly, this is a welcome addition. And it's at a good price. Go to ayler.com for info.

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