CD reviews

CD REVIEW: Örjan Hultén Orion – Minusgrader

Örjan Hultén Orion – Minusgrader
(Artogrush OCD-012. CD review by Adrian Pallant)

It was the articulation and focus in this recording which first drew my attention; and indeed, Minusgrader, from Swedish saxophonist Örjan Hultén and his Orion quartet, has only continued to charm with its sparky animation and romantic lyricism – an evenly-balanced conversation glistening with individual flecks of personality along the way.

Celebrating their tenth anniversary, Orion’s latest release sees all four players – Hultén on tenor or soprano, with pianist Torbjörn Gulz, double bassist Filip Augustson and drummer Peter Danemo – contributing compositionally, and that surely is a factor in the freshness and diversity of nine original numbers. Theirs is a familiar enough acoustic line-up, yet together they create jazz with the kind of winning nuances which call us back for more. Sure, the implied freezing austerity of the title track (Minusgrader means sub-zero temperatures, and the song is inspired by a Tomas Tranströmer poem) might suggest a bleak outing, especially as it reaches its bass-grinding, rock-heavy peak – but otherwise, here is fire and warmth aplenty.

Hultén’s tone, on either instrument, is certainly attractive. A Getzian tenor enfolds blithe Unless It’s You and cheery Adore You, then preens itself against the swagger of Blues i Manegen; and introduced by Augustson’s clear bass foundation, Heading East’s luscious phrases cascade abundantly. Nimble, descending samba October in May reveals adept dexterity on soprano, as well as Gulz’s full piano soloing, whilst the Monkish anarchy of 1961 (Echoes) is emphasised by puckish chord clusters and the leader’s playful swoons and squeals. The band’s crisp assuredness in One for Britten’s trip-up rhythms finds Hultén revelling in Danemo’s rapid, percussive swing with gleefully sustained tenor improv; so too in the buoyant, grooving swell of Do It Anyway.

Minusgrader is ‘straight ahead’ in the best possible way – rich in vitality and fervour, presented with precise musicality … and every track a pleaser.

Minusgrader is launched at Plugged Records, Stora Nygatan Stockholm on 25 January

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