Largely Affirmative

The Big Yes!
The Big Yes!
NORWAY NAKAMA RECORDS NKM 017 L.P. (2019)

With major involvement in The Attack Sextet and Brute Force, it seems that if certain band names can signify intent, then this Scandinavian avant jazz supergroup certainly has previous form when it boils down to a gritty, take-no-prisoners attitude. A further box ticked appears when one discovers that Big Yes! member; Danish trombonist/electronicist Maria Bertel (also of Selvhenter), is well known for her ‘outside the ‘bone’ techniques, while blasting out brassy invective “in front of a stack of amps”. An evocative promo sheet quote indeed, with shades of Peter Zummo, J.A. Deane and Sarah Gail Brand placing her in pretty exclusive company.

The Big Yes’s debut waxing comprises of a solitary thirty minute outing entitled “Kalmar”. A name check referring to an historic alliance between Denmark, Sweden and Norway that took place during the middle ages which finds a modern day equivalent in this outfit’s line-up, where Ms. Bartel and Swedish tenor saxophonist Anna Högberg are joined by the Norwegian rhythm section of double bassist Christian Meaas Svendsen and sticksman Ole Mofjell (also of Nypan and COKKO…). Captured live at the Element Studios, in Gothenberg, Sweden. “Kalmar” was smorgasborded in between gigs during 2018. It’s a barnstorming onslaught that focuses on red-blooded Ayleresque spiritual/marching band thematics, forceful trombone support (w/ digital treatments) and gargantuan Han Bennink-like drum/percussion detonations. But at the seven minutes mark, I did wonder if that eyes-on-stalks intensity could be maintained without injury to band life and limb. Things do resolve themselves however, with a strange extended interlude of bowed bass harmonics, teased and coaxed from the very bowels of its bulky wooden frame. The high-end creaks and whispers seemingly more allied to Chris Watson’s nature-sourced tape explorations than anything found in the current jazz idiom. A full circle is eventually completed with a second offering to the insatiable god of ‘Fire Music’ that just might be perceived as a more intense listening experience than the quartet’s bruising and rambunctious entrance.

Stating the obvious here, but for once the c.d. does have the advantage over its shiny vinyl counterpart as it provides a completely unbroken performance just as nature intended.

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