Last fall, as part of a dynamic performance by Seval, the Swedish trumpeter Emil Strandberg shared his warm, melodic improvisational style with the audience of last year’s European Jazz Meets Chicago minifest, part of the annual Umbrella Music Festival that takes place at the Chicago Cultural Center. In that group, led by Chicago cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, musicians create spontaneous arrangements for loose pop-like songs written by the leader. The group demonstrated an incredibly fluid sensibility, reacting adeptly to one another without ever losing a compositional thread. With some of his solo work outside of the group Strandberg keeps showing off why he’s a natural for the modus operandi at work in Seval.

On September 3 he’ll officially release More Music for Trumpet, Guitar, and Bass (on his own ES label), the second album he’s cut with David Stackenäs and Pär-Ola Landin (the respective guitar and bass of the album title)—it’s a masterpiece of delicate interplay and disciplined concision. Strandberg is adept at free improvisation and can get abstract with the best of them—the album’s opening piece “Avant-propos” is a chunk of free improv built around the spiked-yet-tender tangles of sparse notes plucked by Stackenäs and deftly underlined in real time by Landin. Strandberg expertly spins a gentle melody, tying together the sparse figures played by Stackenas and Landin in the same way lines connect stars in illustrations of constellations. But in this context, for the most part, his focus is on melody and exploring the harmonic folds created by his partners. On a wonderful version of Paul Desmond’s “Wintersong” the introductions suggest that more free improv lays ahead, but after a moment of textural squiggles the trio suddenly locks into the tune’s elegant theme without missing a beat—it’s utterly exhilarating. The group also tackle Monk’s “Ugly Beauty,” a title that applies aesthetically to the way they braid abstraction and lyricism.

The rest of the eight pieces are all by the trumpeter. In most of them the group moves so easily between freebop and coloristic abstraction that one could believe that such quicksilver transitions are what the group is interested in pursuing. But those are ultimately means to an end, just one method of interacting, commenting, and cajoling; maintaining independent voices while working as an ensemble. Below you can check out Strandberg’s tune, “Nothing More Will Come for My Soul.”

Today’s playlist:

The Feldman Soloists, Morton Feldman, Crippled Symmetry: at June in Buffalo (Frozen Reeds)
300 Basses, Sei Ritornelli (Potlatch)
Douglas Bradford, Atlas Obscura (Fresh Sound New Talent)
Bill Wilson, Ever Changing Minstrel (Tompkins Square)
Choro Ensemble, Nosso Tempo (Anzic)