Sten Sandell Trio & John Butcher, Strokes

Peter Margasak

By Peter Margasak

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
A generation-spanning quartet searches for the perfect (over)tone.

Swedish pianist Sten Sandell is a bit older than most of the artists mentioned here, but his creative restlessness is marked by the vigor of a man half his age. He first attracted attention as a member of Gush, a trio with Mats Gustafsson and Raymond Strid, but his current group enlists new generation figures in the form of drummer Paal Nilssen-Love and bassist Johan Berthling. He's long been fascinated by microtones — the sonic increments between the keys of piano. He's used organ, electronics, voice and simulated glissando to achieve the effect, sculpting roiling journeys of free improvisation. Here the trio is joined by the like-minded British saxophonist John Butcher, who helps the group shape a steadily rising-and-falling din as an ensemble sound mass. Luckily, the crisp recording allows each player to be heard clearly — in particularly the sharp rhythm section seems to prod and cajole Sandell and Butcher without bullying.