PRIMING ORCHESTRA: Deep Blue (GAC)

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Posted on Jan 6th 2011 01:33 am

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Priming Orchestra: Deep Blue

PRIMING ORCHESTRA
Deep Blue
GAC015
GAC 2010
08 Tracks. 54mins35secs

A weathered jazz pianist and keyboard player, Swedish musician Harald Svensson has been an active member of the Scandinavian jazz scene for almost forty years. A member of numerous formations, most notably Entra, which also counted in its ranks Thomas Gustafsson, Staffan Svensson, Anders Jormin and Audun Kleive, and with whom he released a number of albums between 1978 and 1993, Svensson has also worked with a wide array of international musicians and regularly performs as a solo artist. He assembled Priming Orchestra back in 2002, with the aim of bringing together jazz, improv, club music and electronics. The band released a first self-titled album in 2006. Originally a quartet formed of Svensson (keyboards), Staffan Svensson (trumpet, electronics), Johannes Lundberg (bass, keyboards, electronics) and Chris Montgomery (drums), the band has since expanded to a quintet with the arrival of Christoffer Berg (synths, drum machine, zither), who has previously been spotted alongside Fever Ray.

Deep Blue roughly picks up where its predecessor left off five years ago, and very much like it, combines tight jazz grooves, moments of subtle introspection and delicate ambient textures, but things appear much more integrated here, each musician occupying a defined space, with Harald and Staffan Svensson taking it in turn to lead the rest of the formation, often by entering vibrant dialogues. On the more upbeat moments, Lundberg and Montgomery provide them with a strong rhythmic counterpoint, weaving intricate and frantic patterns for the three remaining musicians to bounce off. This is particularly evident on opening track Beyoğlu (Bey-oh-loo), or later Vintage, both intense sonic tapestry where all five musicians demonstrate impressive musicianship.

It is however on the more subdued pieces that the formation really come together. At the opposite of the scale from the aforementioned hectic moments, there is, on the majority of this album, such restraint and control that it seems as if the fragile balance between music, textures and silences could be irremediably disturbed at any point, threatening the integrity of the whole record. This is never truer than on Fuyoko, served by sparse keyboard and trumpet motifs toward the beginning, and a delightful exchanged between bass and drums later on, or on The Deep Blue, where electronics bubble around slow pulsating keyboard chords, while the trumpet propels gentle arabesques in the ether. Owon sees the quintet reach out for their most experimental moment. While trumpet and keyboards are initially the focus of the piece, things soon take on a very different aspect as Berg applies a series of deeply textural dreamy sequences. Here more than anywhere else on this record, space becomes an important part of the work, as echoes of melodies are swallowed by nebulous sonic structures. Half way through, a looped bass motif rises, soon complemented by Montgomery’s drums, placed slightly at the back of the spectrum, giving once again a platform for Harald to cast some finely detailed figures.

On Ice And Water, Water And Ice and closing piece Room With A View, the exquisite relationship between Harald’s measured keyboard touches and Staffan’s spellbinding trumpet outlines is once again at the centre of the formation. While on the former, things rapidly take on an abstract and fragmented slant, the latter remain a much more subtle and melodic affair, with each musician seemingly occupying once again equal positions.

Building on the formula that they devised on their debut album, Priming Orchestra have considerably matured as a formation, each musician being at once one element of a whole and a singular part in his own right. With Deep Blue, Priming Orchestra have created a truly fascinating jazz record in the great Scandinavian tradition.

4.8/5

Priming Orchestra (MySpace) | Harald Svensson | GAC

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