Acclaimed Swedish reed player Fredrik Ljungkvist's key solo outfit is the Yun Kan band. This band, in its incarnation as a quintet, released two remarkable albums, Yun Kan 12345 and Badaling (Caprice, 2004 and 2007) and in recent years operated in a slimmed down version as Yun Kan 3 and as an ambitious outgrowth of the quintet as Yun Kan 10. Now, finally, more than five years after its last documentation, this ensemble has been beautifully recorded by Swedish Radio.
Ljungkvist's ten original compositions swing between opposite sonic poles. It is a big band that rarely exhaust its full capabilities. The musical language encompasses modern, free-bop forms and new chamber music in well-crafted segments, sometimes focuses on soloists and at other times highlights Yun Kan as a musical collective. It bridges the gap between solid, intricate textures and powerful, intuitive free improvisations and between the contemplative and the ironic. It emphasizes unique sonic elements such as the operatic vocals of Sofia Jernberg, a member of Seval and The New Songs, or the vintage synthesizer sounds of Mattias Risberg. Ljungvist's playing can be fiery and expressive but also fragile and poetic. But eventually Ljungkvist and Yun Kan 10 aim to find a balance between these opposites, to find an organic forms of articulation that will cover the spectrum.
All the compositions were arranged by Ljungkvist and are spread on a double album, make full use of the singular and resourceful voices of the ensemble members. On the first disc, "Lackritz" stresses the playful, suggestive vocals of Jernberg and the expressive tuba of Per-Åke Holmlander, a member of the original quintet as well of Peter Brötzmann's Chicago Tentet and the Barry Guy Orchestra, contrasted with the sonic searches of violinist Katt Hernandez and bassist Mattias Wellin, also of the quintet, and the free improvisations of drummers Jon Fält, another member of the quintet, and Raymond Strid. "How To Break A Fever" is a quiet and subtle piece that attempts to find middle ground between the celstial vocals of Jernberg and the low drone of the horn and brass instruments.
Only on "Hold On To Your Hat!" does Yun Kan 10 begin to sound like a band whose musical vocabulary is rooted in jazz legacy, swinging happily over an infectious melodic theme, with passionate solos by trombonist Mats Äleklint and Ljunkvist. A chaotic, dark soundscape is formed on "Fighter," torn between the idiosyncratic vocals of Jernberg, the brooding keyboards of Risberg and the whole ensemble. "Kun Lun" revolves between the restless, otherwoldly sonic explorations of Jernberg, Risberg, Holmlander and Äleklint and calm reasoning.
The second disc continues to present this ensemble's ability to create a colorful range of arresting forms. It opens with the poetic "Dolphinian Motion," structured around Ljungkvist and Jernberg, in a delicate dance that suddenly erupts into an energetic storm and then gradually involves other participants in the emotional dance. Drummers Fält and Strid stimulate each other on "Tuulikki" and anchor Ljungkvist and Jernberg flights in a flexible rhythmic framework. "No Panic, Just Curious" patiently matures from a reserved, chamber jazz form, featuring Hernandez, to an open-ended, collective free improvisation, linked cleverly with the powerful, orchestral arrangement of " Abraxas," concluding with a charismatic solo by Ljungkvist. The final, contemplative composition, "Russia," finds a fragile balance between all the previous forms and the highly personal voices of its members and shines with elegant creative energy.
A masterful achievement. Ten presents Ljungkvist's musical vision at its best. One of the best releases, so far, of 2013.
How To Break A Fever
Hold On To Your Hat!
No Panic, Just Curious
Fredrik Ljungkvist: soprano, tenor and baritone saxophones, clarinet
Sofia Jernberg voice
Mats Äleklint: trombone
Per-Åke Holmlander: tuba
Klas Nevrin: piano
Mattias Risberg: hammond, ARP pro soloist and Moog Taurus
Katt Hernandez: violin
Mattias Welin: bass
Jon Fält: drums
Raymond Strid: drums