Autolysis is the destruction of cells or tissues by their own enzymes. «Autolysis» is also the title of the debut album of a new quartet led by Danish double bass player-composer Asger Thomsen and featuring Swedish guitarist Niklas Fite and German sax player Jonas Engel and drummer Simon Forchhammer. This powerhouse quartet suggests its own subversive perspective of the European free jazz and free improvisation legacies, blending simple, melodic narrative and spontaneous and abstract, sound-oriented, collective improvisations. Despite its suggestive title, «Autolysis» was recorded in February 2020, before the quartet was aware of the Covid-19 pandemic implications.
Thomsen is clearly the leader of the quartet and often his brief and articulate double bass solos set the atmosphere of the distinct pieces. The quartet sounds energetic, bursting with fresh ideas, as a working band that enjoys playing together.
Thomsen’s rhythmic bass solo introduces the opening piece «Burrito», incorporating Ornette Coleman’s harmolodic strategy and highlighting his almost-telepathic connection with sax player Engel. Later Engel enjoys a similar kind of interplay with Fite who plays a brilliant solo with an inspired sense of timing. The following «Hjul og Stejle» is an open improvisation that stresses Engel’s natural gift for sketching engaging melodies and Nite abstraction of these melodies in a manner that brings to mind seminal British free-improv guitarists as Derek Bailey and John Russell (he performed with Russell). The quartet continues with a sparse, timbral investigation on the short «Usurpator», employing an array of extended techniques.
«Kinch» alternates between an energetic and playful structure and a totally free, sound-oriented collective improvisation. «Pata» focuses on the rhythmic power of this quartet and again, Fite’s interpretation of the rhythmic patterns is absolutely brilliant. The last piece, «Tentakler», offers another way of adapting Ornette Coleman’s harmolodic strategy to this quartet, in a manner that emphasized the distinct, strong-minded voices of the four musicians.
Jonas Engel (as, modified pocket tp), Niklas Fite (g), Asger Thomsen (b), Simon Forchhammer (dr)