Free For Five
Tore Johansen - Trumpet
Helge Lien - Piano
Per Orvang - Guitar
Anders Ljungberg - Bass
Anders Thorén - Drums
In 2014, drummer and producer Anders Thorén set up a collaborative jazz project which he christened Nordic Circles. The basic notion was to
showcase Scandinavian jazz talent and through the participants working together in playing and composition to produce innovative and stimulating
music. Nordic Circles will be not so much a regular band as a different mix of musicians on each new CD in the series. Drawn from the Nordic
countries, the groups will feature established stars of the Scandinavian jazz scene as well as those in the process of making their mark. The
studio in Oslo where this first album was recorded is the Rainbow Studio, hence the title Winter Rainbow.
This initial foray proves to be very good listening indeed. The pick of the bunch, for me, were the last three tracks on the disc. Leon, a
piece from Thorén himself, features some exquisite guitar from Per Ovang, complemented by Johansen's mellow trumpet, stately bass by Anders
Ljungberg and imaginative piano from Helge Lien. Silent Scream, which follows, is another lilting theme. There is a further guitar solo
(Orvang actually wrote this melody) and excellent work from the rhythm section plus some interesting trumpet and bass interaction. Spiral Circle is a fine ballad which allows us to appreciate Tore Johansen's moody trumpet and the pensive but subsequently blues-tinged
contribution of Lien's expansive solo on piano. I've highlighted these three tracks yet much of the rest is only a fraction behind in quality.
Another Ovang composition, Melting, is in waltz-time and provides every single member of the group with the chance to shine. Johansen's Dreaming is a model of sensitive interactivity. The trumpeter's lyrical and Wheeler-like playing, along with Ljungberg's powerful bass, on Dark Brightness is a source of pleasure for the listener, too. New Song is a catchy and engaging number with a polished
collective sound. My only reservation lay with Free For Five which had a slow, incoherent start but was mercifully brief. Even here there
was resonant bass playing.
It has been a treat to hear such a consistently high standard of performance from a group of gifted musicians. On the evidence of this first CD of
the projected series, future releases under the Nordic Circles brand will be keenly anticipated by lovers of good jazz.