Album review

Koma Saxo – ‘Live’

Koma Saxo – Live
(We Jazz Records. Album review by Alison Bentley)

Live and kicking: led by bassist Petter Eldh, this album has a raw energy that captures Koma Saxo’s gigs well, with their mix of jazz, hip hop and free improv. Born in Sweden, Eldh is perhaps best known in the UK for his work with Django Bates. Here he brings together musicians who are all bandleaders in their own right: Germany’s Christian Lillinger on drums, and three sax players – Finn Mikko Innanen and Swedes Otis Sandsjö and Jonas Kullhammar.

Euro Koma explodes with a playful, Ornette Coleman-ish theme – the bass pins everything to stop it flying away as the saxes trade 4s, like scribbling wildly in the dark. The saxes are weighty but Lillinger’s drum and bass-influenced cymbals lift everything. It sounds wonderfully chaotic, but they all career together towards a final head.

Puls Koma has a burly ostinato bass riff, drums jostling the pulse with squabbling free saxes. (One of Eldh’s heroes is German saxophonist Peter Brötzmann.) Fanfarum For Komarum III lurches into dubstep bass in 7, with saxes on joyful township-style triads. The bass duets freely with gravelly bari and the rest of the band sidles in for some superfast freewheeling to the end.

The ballad Waltz Me Baby, Waltz Me All Night Long (by Norwegian guitarist Even Helte Hermansen) is beautifully reworked. Eldh’s opening solo has a guttural strength; the sax is breathy with a catch in the voice, alongside amazingly delicate drums, till all the saxes break free into forays on the edge of the theme. Otis and Christian’s short free interlude for sizzling drums and sax links to the heady swing of Blumer. The boppish sax/flute theme crackles into life and seems to speed up and slow down every few beats. It’s unfeasibly fast and makes the pulse race, like quadruple speed Parker (another of Eldh’s influences). Saxes sketch arcs, a chorus of crazy phrases hurtling over the white hot drums.

Fiskeskärsmelodin is a slow minor folk tune evoking distant horizons. It’s arranged in counterpointed harmonies hanging on a long flute note, the flute solo like a fish jumping out of water. A groove somewhere between Afro-Latin and jungle bursts in, Lillinger’s drum and bass subtleties especially striking. Stepp, Min Stepp has folk elements, but is by Russian composer Lev Knipper. This version, audience singing with gusto, owes more to the Red Army Choir than Jan Johansson’s delicate piano trio version. Suddenly, hip hop bass and drums detonate, holding it all together as sax multiphonics disintegrate – till the theme reappears unscathed.

This highly original music is full of sheer daring; the energy is unflagging, and the musicianship superb.

LINK: Koma Saxo Live at Bandcamp

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