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Christian Wallumrod Ensemble: Fabula Suite Lugano

Among the ranks of the important new wave of Norwegian jazz musicians sparking up the international scene, pianist-composer-bandleader Christian Wallumrød is one of the most fascinating and least easily categorized. More to the point, part of the fascination arises out of his slipperiness, the intriguing way in which he eludes genre limitations, including the jazz element itself. Especially on his last two, hypnotic albums-his sextet’s masterful The Zoo Is Far and the new Fabula Suite Lugano-Wallumrød sidesteps jazz tradition by morphing and re-orienting the link to improvisation.

In an interview, Wallumrød expressed his ambivalent feelings toward jazz proper, particularly its head-solo-head orthodoxy. Tellingly, though, he admitted loving Miles Davis’ Nefertiti, the title track of which has no “solo,” as such, apart from the free-range, discursive rumble of Tony Williams’ drums. A similar effect, within strict melodic guidelines, governs Wallumrød’s music: He might give improvisatory license to trumpeter Eivind Lønning (in a chair previously held by Arve Henriksen and Mathias Eick) or his longtime, coloration-sensitive drummer Per Oddvar Johansen, but ensemble consciousness is always paramount, balanced and dispersed among the 18 tracks of his latest suite.

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