Tenor saxophonist Fredrik Nordstrom hasn’t been quite as celebrated as some fellow Scandinavian reeds swashbucklers, but in the last half decade or so he’s quietly been releasing some top-shelf small group freebop on labels like Moserobie and, now, Clean Feed.
Sharing some group members with ensembles like Atomic, Nordstrom’s regular group combines the reflective qualities of mid-1960s Bobby Hutcherson with the improv-core of The Thing or Atomic. But here that regular group gets a moderate lineup change, and the resulting record is a vivid demonstration of how a regular band with a stable repertoire can get just the right kick in the ass when a couple members are swapped out.
There’s a kind of electricity on this 2005 date, as Nordstrom invites ace trombonist Mats Aleklint to sub for Magnus Broo, and Torbjorn Zetterberg occupies the bass chair instead of Ingebrigt Haker Flaten (regulars Mattias Stahl on vibes and Fredrik Rundqvist on drums are still here). They cycle through a really excellent set, from caffeinated proto-funk on “Yakiniku” to billowing impressionist performances like “Russian T” or the slightly edgier “In Motian.”
As the set goes on, they start to balance their pulse-driven inclinations with a greater attention to timbre – the leader’s grainy tenor on Bjork’s “Coccoon,” Aleklint’s lusty portamento set against emphatic percussive attacks from Stahl on “Pizza Girl,” and so forth. It’s crowd-pleasing stuff, as with the Vandermark 5-ish closer “Mister Barista,” but is also thoughtful in its arranging and attention to detail. An enjoyable set, just edgy enough to stand out from the pack.