Linda Fredriksson – Juniper
(We Jazz Records WJCD40. Album review by Jon Turney)
Saxophonist Linda Fredriksson is new to me, but has evidently played in several prominent bands in their(*) Finnish homeland. The apparent lack of hurry to make a debut solo record pays off on this attractively moody set of themes offset by cleverly crafted, sparely executed settings for keys and rhythm section.
The pieces began life using guitar, keys or voice, and there’s something in the promo note’s suggestion that this is a kind of singer-songwriter album without words. The focus is firmly on the various reeds, though – Frederikkson has a rich timbre on baritone sax, as well as offering alto sax and bass clarinet. There’s an affecting use of a beat-up acoustic guitar underneath their voice on Pinetree Song. Other atmospheric touches include field recordings (rain), and layered keyboard sounds from Tuomo Prättälä and Minna Koivisto that include organ-like sonorities, ethereally vocal tones, and a variety of synth blends. Olavi Louhivuori and Mikael Saastamoinen on drums and double bass can be brisk, spare and urgent or subtly supportive, as needed.
It’s a collection of pieces that set out to beguile the listener quietly, from the homespun, demo-tape vibe of Lempilauni, opening with voice and the aforesaid guitar, to the gentle grooves and more complex soundscapes developed for the other tracks, which complement the themes without ever obscuring them. Mid-tempo lines predominate, hooking you in before you quite realise it. The horn work mostly invites relaxation into a bath of sound, lending the occasional more assertive solo eruptions more emphasis.
In keeping with that, the composer’s saxes can be punchy when the tension needs to go up a notch, but more often deliver a softer sound. Although they play baritone and alto rather than tenor and soprano the effect Frederiksson seeks feels often reminiscent of Andy Sheppard, another player interested in highlighting an attractive tune in a way that communicates an absence of strain. Fans of Sheppard’s work on ECM with Eivind Aarset will feel at home with the atmospherics here. Like theirs, the music is a considered twenty-first century blend that can be tagged as jazz, but will appeal to plenty of listeners who may not have the jazz habit.
Categories: Album review