Ingebrigt Håker Flaten New York Quartet Now Is Review

Album. Released 2012.  

BBC Review

A rich delicacy indeed from the Norwegian bassist’s cross-generational quartet.

Martin Longley 2012

The Norwegian bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten has lately been living in Austin, Texas, but also has deep roots in Chicago. Among his best-known groups are Scorch Trio, Atomic and The Thing.

Now, Flaten has formed a cross-generational New York Quartet that features oldster reedsman Joe McPhee alongside the much younger trumpeter Nate Wooley. Aged somewhere between those two is guitarist Joe Morris. Many years might be spanned, but the foursome possesses similarly varied sonic personalities. In tandem, a unique quartet sound is created.

This is improvisation that bristles in the opposite corner to slackness. The players are tight, spiky, swift and sensitised. Reflecting this tendency, many of the pieces included are much shorter than the average free-improvisation sprawl. The palette of this sound painting is tightly controlled.

Two shortish numbers, Port and Times, open, but then Pent stretches out at greater length, with more of a linear jazz concept. Smeary, slurry horns cavort along Flaten’s walking spine, as Morris strikes chordal blows, derailing the antique jazz guitar ways, yet retaining affection for those old shapes.

Morris’ nervous, spidery note-rushes are asymmetrically stacked. The horn embers pop, glow, putter and spark, as vintage jazz language is retranslated. All parts are disconcertingly operating at their own pace, sensuously entangling.

The following Knicks makes an immediate return to sparse abstraction, the horns existing as flutter-tube wind tunnels. Morris sounds like he’s scraping something metallic along his strings. There’s a runaway density to Giants, with tenor saxophone raw, rugged and recorded up close.

The explosive assault of Rangers highlights the absence of a drummer, helping to reveal greater detail, though the leader’s bass is mostly quite percussively attacked anyway. Post is the ballad of the album, the horns delivering a mournful fanfare, as Flaten bows his strings sympathetically in the distance.

At just under 39 minutes, this is a very rich delicacy indeed.

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