Swedish bassist Johan Berthling has played in some of the most important free jazz ensembles in the Nordic hemisphere in the last two decades – Martin Küchen’s Angels, Mats Gustafsson’s Fire! Trio and Fire! Orchestra, Goran Kajfeš Subtropic Arkestra, Sten Sandell Trio, Christer Bothén Acoustic Ensemble, Arashi (with Akira Sakata and Paal Nilssen-Love) and Nacka Forum. But only now, Berthling found the time to record his first solo double bass album «Björnhorn», featuring the six-part suite «Björnhorn» and a cover of Charlie Haden’s iconic «For Turiya». The album is released digitally and on a limited edition of 100 hand-numbered discs, and on an even more limited edition of 50 vinyls.
«Björnhorn» highlights Berthling’s rich and deep melodic sensibility, when he plays arco or pizzicato, and, obviously, his powerful, rhythmic touch, commanding technique and warm sound, no matter how far afield the music was taken. The suite suggests a few dramatic modes, from the intense, stubborn bowing, through the sparse, lyrical and intuitive and to hypnotic, dark drones, as well as the wise manner in which Berthling develops a few repetitive motifs. The meticulous recording by Daniel Bengston at Studio Rymden in Stockholm, with the production of Berthling and label’s head Alex Zethson, stresses beautifully every vibration and deep-toned sounds and simply lets his bull fiddle, a German one from the late 1800s, sing. You can find the seventh part of the suite on Berthling’s bandcamp page.
The majestic and touching interpretation of «For Turiya» cements Berthling position in a great lineage of innovative bass players with sounds and approaches of their own. His sensibilities of time and space are compelling. And as Brian Olewnick wrote in his liner notes, «Björnhorn» is not only an excellent solo double bass album but «a superb exposition of a very musical mind».
Johan Berthling (b)