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Glasgow Art Club, March 3rd 2011

It could be argued that, in relation to its population, Sweden has produced more excellent jazz musicians than any other European country. Thursday night’s performance by Plunge did nothing to disprove this theory.

Their set was made up of predominantly long, predominantly slow, improvisations. A piece would start off quietly, almost tentatively, and build up in intensity as it went along before fading away again. Baritone saxophonist Andreas Andersson would play a phrase, pause, leaving Mattias Hjorth and drummer Peter Nilsson playing on, and then play it again, repeating this process as if examining the musical material from every possible angle. It was very much a group performance – while one musician might come to the foreground for a while, it wasn’t a matter of them taking turns to solo – as they seemed to work as a unit rather than three individuals. They were all excellent players, but didn’t indulge in any flashy displays of virtuosity: it was the cumulative effect of each ten or fifteen minute piece which impressed, not individual moments. Essentially theirs seemed to be a free jazz aesthetic, but one which didn’t spurn, indeed positively embraced, melody and lyricism.

Various other musicians came to mind at different stages in their set: John Surman (because of the baritone); the Ornette Coleman trio with David Izenzon and Charles Moffett; the Necks (because of the way they built long pieces through the repetition with slight variation of simple phrases); and Jan Garbarek’s Nordic austerity. But the overall result was completely Plunge: they’re one of those bands who simply sound like themselves. What they play isn’t a music which leaps out and grabs you; it’s a music which draws you in and beguiles you. When are they coming back?

Update: Rob Adams wasn’t as enthusiastic about them as I was. Review in the Herald.

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