Koma Saxo with Sofia Jernberg – ‘Koma West’ – London Jazz News

Koma Saxo with Sofia Jernberg – West Koma
(We Jazz Records. Review by Tony Dudley-Evans)

Petter Eldh must be one of the most versatile, if not the most brilliant, musicians in Europe. He’s Swedish, but studied in Denmark at the Rhythmic Music Conservatory where he joined Django Bates’ wonderfully esoteric big band StoRMChaser. He continued his relationship with Bates in the latter’s Belovèd Trio, and also became a key member of Kit Downes’ ENEMY trio, writing half of the compositions for the trio’s final ECM album. Vermilion. He is now based in Berlin where he has become a key musical partner to singer Lucia Cadotsch in her sweet bottom trio. He directed and wrote for himself Amok Love band, and played a key role in drummer Christian Lillinger’s projects.

He now leads Koma Saxo, including the first two albums, Peter Eldh presents Koma Saxo and Koma Saxo Live, featured a quintet with drummer Christian Lillinger and saxophonists Otis Sandsjö, Jonas Kullhammer and Mikko Innanen. His third album, West Komapresents a larger ensemble which includes in its formation the singer Sofia Jernberg, two improvising string players, Mary Reich on the violin and Lucy Railton cello and pianist Kit Downes, as well as the members of the original quintet.

The larger ensemble makes the music on this album quite different from the previous two. These albums were punchy, full of music while on that there’s a wide range of moods. Characteristic features are the use of vocal textures provided by Jernberg and the string arrangements for Reich and Railton.

The tracks are quite short with a single track lasting over four minutes, but Eldh puts a lot into each track. Koma Krig, for example, begins with a rhythmically strong passage with Sandsjö on alto clarinet, Lillinger’s signature staccato drumming and a Jernberg vocal line that moves into a second pass with the strings playing a lively Eldh arrangement. All of this is packed into a 3.34 minute track, reminiscent of how Duke Ellington put so much into tracks such as Harlem vent pipe.

The next track, Flaman, is on the other hand much more relaxed, Jernberg developing a nice melodic line on the whole.

The music is partly rooted in the west coast of Sweden where Eldh grew up, and Ostron accordion presents an aspect of the folk music of the region with Kiki Eldh on the accordion. However, she is accompanied by Lillinger on drums and Petter Eldh on bass, bringing a more contemporary touch to the track. It ends with a more folkloric line for the horns. Kiki Eldh is described on the CD cover as the “momvillain”, so I assume she is Petter’s mother.

All songs are written by Eldh except one, Narhet by Fritz Sjöström, but arranged by Eldh. This is the only track where Jernberg sings the lyrics.

The music on this album presents an innovative approach to contemporary jazz. The short length of the tracks gives the music an appealing flow with varying textures resulting from the use of wordless vocals, string arrangements, hip hop-influenced drumming, horn writing, and the occasional electronic effect. It all has an improvisational feel, but the music is, in fact, quite structured with relatively few individual solos.

LINK: Koma West on Bandcamp

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