Angles 9 - Beyond Us

Label: Clean Feed, 2019

Personnel - Martin Kuchen: alto and tenor saxophones; Magnus Broo: trumpet; Eirik Hegdal: baritone sax; Goran Kajfes: cornet; Mats Aleklint: trombone; Mattias Stahl: vibraphone; Alexander Zethson: piano; Johan Berthling: bass; Andreas Werliin: drums.


The intrepid Swedish sax player Martin Kuchen reunites his Angles 9 group, a powerful nonet that already proved its value with the previous three Clean Feed recordings. Perhaps a bit less boisterous in the improvisations but definitely more refined in the orchestration, the new Beyond Us, recorded live at the Zomer Jazz FietsTour in The Netherlands, comprises five fresh and dynamic compositions penned by Martin, with Isak and Leo Kuchen giving their contribution to three of them.

The title track is elevated to an epic through its lavish instrumentation and imposing pulsation. A vibrant circular bass groove, in the pocket with the drums, holds everything on its shoulders, impelling vibraphonist Mattias Stahl to embark on a skittering improvisational journey. He has the horn crew bringing the theme’s sumptuous lines in a timely manner before the distinguished sense of individuality from trumpeter Magnus Broo echoes on top of the unfaltering foundation offered by pianist Alexander Zethson, bassist Johan Berthling, and drummer Andreas Werliin.

U(n) Happier Marriages” unveils a jazzier piano inception, with Zethson navigating between the cosmic universe of Sun Ra and the angular exquisiteness of Thelonious Monk. However, the mood that shows up later is more reminiscent of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers (“Moanin” easily comes to mind) and some of Mingus’ orchestral fantasies. The improvisational section includes downward-pitched brass moves from trombonist Mats Aleklint and a round bass soliloquy from Berthling before ending with a bluesy collective mourn fabricated with taste and style.

Sounding more like Grachan Moncur III, the trombonist also makes use of his gruff and blustery timbre on “Samar & The Egyptian Winter”, a haunting piece where Kuchen makes a knockout appearance by discharging skirling laments in the first place. Brass sounds comply with the unaggressive foundation, preceding a sax/bass duo passage that leads to the grooving finale.

Cross-cultural fragrances are in the air with the embracement of further sounds from the Middle East and Africa on the CD’s last two pieces, “Against The Permanent Revolution” and “Mali”. The former struts imperiously like an elegant march with the horn players delivering passionate unisons and Eirik Hegdal strolling his baritone sax with fire, whereas the latter is a brassy elated fantasy introduced by Werliin’s adroit rhythm and complemented with solos of crackling intensity, jubilant percussive passages, and patterned interplay.

This unremittingly colorful program, devotedly explored by a nonet of talented groovers, withstands repeated playing and should be played loud to maximize fun.

Grade  A-

Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
03 - Samar & The Egyptian Winter ► 04 - Against The Permanent Revolution ► 05 - Mali