Every year, once I’ve finished assembling my lists of favorite recordings from this previous 12 months, I like to spend the period before the onslaught of new recordings kicks in (toward the end of January) checking out albums I haven’t gotten around to hearing. That pile is always large, and I’m often stung with regret about the great music that slipped through the proverbial cracks. One such album from 2017 is a quietly powerful recording with the big title A Trust in the Uncertain and a Willingness to be Exposed (Found You), a collective effort by four superb European improvisers: Swedish bassist Patric Thorman, Swedish pianist Sten Sandell, British violinist Philipp Wachsmann, and Swedish trumpeter Emil Strandberg.
Over the years I’ve written about Strandberg in the Reader several times—he’s a superb player who erases the lines between austere free improvisation and melodically generous postbop. His musical curiosity allows him to deftly incorporate all sorts of ideas and influences with seamless grace. I love the way he plays tunes—either standards or his own compositions—but in free-improv contexts he’s no less compelling. He’s maintained a terrific trio with Sandell and Thorman (the latter of whom he worked with in the excellent quintet Seval, led by former Chicagoan Fred Lonberg-Holm), and last year he added Wachsmann for A Trust in the Uncertain. Together they create music of sublime delicacy and thrilling interactivity.
The album is an inspiring testament to the advanced listening abilities of the participants, who engage in a sensual, finely wrought dance with one another—caressing lines, shaping inversions, and splintering one fragile, lyrical phrase after another. The six improvised pieces have a strong chamber-music feel, and their concision hints at a sense of economy indebted to Webern’s ever resonant Five Pieces for Orchestra. The group’s timbre is sometimes altered by Wachsmann’s subtle waves of electronics and Sandell’s occasional use of clavichord and portative organ. Below you can check out the piece titled “Två.”
Jonas Kullhammar Quartet, Låt Det Vara (Moserobie)
Alisa Weilerstein and Inon Barnatan, Rachmaninov/Chopin: Cello Sonatas (Decca)
Camille, Ouï (Nonesuch/Because)
Arnold Dreyblatt & the Orchestra of Excited Strings, Live at the Federal Hall National Memorial, 1981 (Table of the Elements)
Peter Lenz, Lithium (Skirl)