Fattigfolket is a Norwegian/Swedish quartet bringing us some free form jazz, with just the right amount of constraint. Having garnered many awards and recognition in the European jazz scene, the group offers their first self-titled CD. Since I didn’t’ have my Nowegian/Swedish-to-English translation dictionary handy, I will leave song title interpretation up to you (the reader).
I’m struggling to come up with a good description of this release, outside of the standard free/Avante jazz label. Certainly, fans of mid-era Miles Davis would find something to like here. There may also be a bit here for the Coltrane fan. I found it wasn’t far from some of the improvisation work from the Bruford/Levin Upper Extremities project, which featured Chris Botti.
All eleven tracks offer their own particular artistic statement. As expected, Gunnar Halle and Hallvard Godal handle most of the lead work, via trumpet and saxophone (respectively). The "upright" bass of Putte Meijer helps to maintain a more "traditional" jazz feel, while drummer Morten Sommer knows when to stick to a beat versus chopping things up. Throughout the tracks, we are treated to original arrangements with a high level of improvisation and experimentation. By the end of the CD, you have had a chance to hear each musician featured, and they are all very talented guys.
Let’s talk about some of the tracks. "Bulle I bussen", "Da Mask", "Titicaca", and "Det Er Godt A Ikke Gjore Noe, Og Hvile Etterpa" are examples of tracks that show the group in mid-tempo free jazz form, while maintaining arrangement and continuity. They try many melody and time-signature ideas out, and most of them work in the improv arena. "Kjempefugl" and "Skjult Drage" are examples of where the group wanders far into the Avante/experimental world, and would most likely be challenging for the casual listener. I find the group does a nice job of mixing the more arranged pieces with the experimental stuff, so as to not totally lose any listener who may be unfamiliar with the Avante style. "Bare Pals" has a very "Miles Davis" vibe to it, with Gunnar working a muted trumpet improvisation. A short piece, but it shows how the whole group is playing off one another. "Putte I Pals" is the most structured piece on the CD, with the bass and saxophone maintaining a mid-tempo rhythm. Drums and Trumpet improvise, and sax tends to wander off, but bass stays true to the rhythm. It all falls apart around the 4-minute mark, and contiues with chaos until the ending just over 5 minutes. However, this may be the cloest Fattigfolket gets to "commercial". The CD closes out with the slow tempo "nero nero", which opens with a nice solid melody shared by sax and trumpet. Very soothing, with drums and bass keeping it slow and steady. Nice bass feature from Putte. Nothing harsh or overly Avante about this, and that makes for a nice closing piece to this disc.
Overall, this is just over 50 minutes of some very good, but very experimental, music featuring saxophone and trumpet with standard drums and bass rhythm section. I sense Fattigfolket approached this release understanding that they needed to spread out their experimental pieces a bit, and give a chance for the uninitiated to catch up. This release is definitely full of talent and very cool, but not for everybody.