Joakim Milder: Still In Motion (Dragon 188)

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In this 1989 live recording from Stockholm we are treated to a very original set of compositions from a very original tenor sax. On first hearing the record appears to be a lost Wayne Shorter record from the Blue Note days, but upon deeper listening one realizes that the snaky melodicism is gone and replaced by a relentless pursuit of rhythmic ideas. Milder mostly forsakes the standard flurry of notes that usually comes from any post-Coltrane saxophone in favor of pushing and driving the band rhythmically, sometimes with a single note. He has succeeded in finding his own personal way to play an instrument that has has so many personalities conquer it in the past. An impressive task indeed.

But what does the music sound like? As I stated before, there is the immediate feel of Shorter or the Davis/Shorter band of the sixties, I think this is brought in mostly by the style of the drummer, Rune Carlsson, which owes a lot to Tony Williams. These tunes seem to escape category though. The head is as likely to start the tune as to end it, or maybe it will end up in the middle. There may be a trance like groove, or there may be a meter-less feel. This is, no doubt, due to the rhythmic quality of the leader surrounding himself with only a rhythm section. The arrangements seem fully planned out, but the only times one feels sure there is not improvisation occurring are when instruments double. I think the music can be best described as having a rhythmic hook that teases you by appearing and reappearing while the soloists fight within to forge new rhythms. It is not absent of melody and harmony, but the tonality is always gives service to the drive and swing.

While the above description may seem quite abstract, the music is wholly accessible. It could easily be played at an evening party and no one would be the wiser. Milder’s new approach to the saxophone can be subtle, but when we give it our attention, we indeed hear a new thing. (This recording can be ordered through Cadence)

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