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I.P.A. – GRIMSTA (2022) (Cuneiform Records)

I.P.A. might be considered is something of a Scandinavian jazz supergroup, with Atle Nymo on tenor saxophone, Magnus Broo on trumpet, Mattias Ståhl on vibraphone, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten on bass and Håkon Mjåset Johansen on drums. “Harmonically unfettered, rhythmically unpredictable, and melodically unvarnished, the quintet thrives on live-wire interaction, with rapidly intersecting lines that swoop and collide, disentangle and divide,” says Cuneiform - a good description.

Vibrant drums start and intersperse ‘Ballet’, with its swashbuckling theme demarcated by excellent brass ensemble brass ensemble and shimmering vibraphone playing, all three briefly soloing twice over. I.P.A. hits top gear quickly as a disciplined short blowing session appears before the elegant main theme returns, all sounding like a future jazz classic. This is hard to follow, but the 7-minute title track also delivers. It’s led off by tenor sax before a deceptively simple riff takes hold, vibes in early in an intoxicating and infectious piece. ‘Stray’ is a short somewhat lachrymose piece (would make a perfect accompaniment for one of those sad scenes in a Charlie Chaplin film) that segues into the 7-minutes of ‘Epic’, a multi-faceted piece, with a diminuendo half way as a reflective passage featuring trumpet follows the tenor sax. What I haven’t mentioned yet is the versatility of the drummer, perfectly capable of clattering away and of top-notch breaks, but also of making what’s going on in the background so interesting on a piece like this. ‘Empathy Fog’, with a soaring catchy melody like ‘Ballet’, has an extended tenor sax solo, but of course trumpet gets its place in a subdued kind of way; moods vary, most evocative, a really clever piece bookended by ‘the theme’. ‘Pop’ is a lovely tender 3-minute piece to end the album.

Whilst rooted in the music of the likes of DON CHERRY and ORNETTE COLEMAN, “Grimsta” is a fresh take on a well-trodden genre. No one player dominates. Mostly tightly structured and melodic, the music can be rhythmically unpredictable, the ‘restoring order out of chaos’ moments are restricted, and its appeal will be both fans of experimental and classic sixties jazz.

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