An Amazon River Spirit in Sweden

Amazonas [featuring Biggi Vinkeloe] — Deep Talk (SODA, 2016)

deeptalk-amazonasSwedish trio Amazonas mixes jazz with the earthly sensibility of the rain forest. It’s not new age — in fact, it often sounds like a bustling take on late-night club jazz — but it carries that same sense of calm. The green fronds on the cover are an apt image.

In the past, Amazonas has included a vocalist as a fourth member. For their fifth album, Deep Talk, the group has brought in fellow Swede Biggi Vinkeloe, who’s also a frequent Bay Area visitor and resident.

I’ve mostly heard Vinkeloe in the context of free improv, but her recent album Jade, an ambitious project featuring a church organ and a choir, gave me a sense of her playing in a context closer to conventional music. She exercises some of those same muscles on Deep Talk, showing off her jazzy side on flute and sax

These tracks are improvised but focus on building melodic structures. On “My Shaking Hands,” Anders Kjellberg‘s drums set up a steady beat of sandy percussion; it’s just a drum kit, but the sound just feels at peace with itself. Annika Törnqvist‘s bass sets up a steady pulse, and the combination feels like a stroll through the gentle rain forest suggested by the band’s name and the album cover.

Above all that, Vinkeloe’s flute flutters and darts like a bird, aided by snatches of vocalizing. Thomas Gustafsson‘s soprano sax, charged up with reverb, essentially plays the part of a second flute, creating intertwining melodies over the rhythm section’s footfalls.

There’s an edge to tracks like “Mad Chat” and “Breaking News,” which spring out of the gate with galloping drums and bass, while the two horns share “soloing” duties in a collaborative way. It’s no so much a dual solo as it is a collectively painted portrait.

While much of the album evokes images of nature and peace, “The Snake” is a bit different. It’s got an oddly grooving rhythm and some of the most frenzied sax playing on the album, which makes the video’s placid images seem a bit incongruous. The video serves well, though, in presenting the band’s aggressive and peaceful sides.

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