Scenery Somewhere documents the first time that German, Stockholm-based alto sax player Julia Strzalek, who recently joined the latest incarnation of Mats Gustafsson’s Fire! Orchestra with Swedish, Copenhagen-based drummer Cornelia Nilsson played together. The album was recorded in a former hospital funeral chapel, Kapellet, in Stockholm in September 2021. A symbolic and magical place for a joyful yet grounded, free improvised meeting between two strong voices, as British pianist Alexander Hawking notes in his liner notes. «We hear the sounds of life. We hear the sounds of breath. Not only the gentle sibilance of the air spilling from the edges of the mouthpiece, as it escapes life as a note; not only the airiness of those low drums: but also the sound of the music being allowed to breathe within the space’s very special acoustic».
Strzalek and Nilsson offer their own view on the rich legacy of the sax-drums format, with their highly compositional approach of free improvisation, comprised of compassionate and deep listening and playful and melodic interplay. Hawkins finds an advantage to this first-ever live meeting of Strzalek and Nilsson: the almost sledgehammer impact of the duo never capitulating to the histrionics which can occasionally characterize the saxophone-drums context. And indeed, Strzalek and Nilsson opt for more quiet and reserved, introspective and expressionistic dynamics, and rarely rush to muscular and fiery modes.
This short and masterful set, only 27 minutes long, highlights this gifted duo refined sense of orchestration and textural clarity. And as Hawkins wisely observed, Strzalek and Nilsson create sounds of peace, patience, poise, and indeed – the sounds of life.
Julia Strzalek (as), Cornelia Nilsson (dr)