Swedish tenor sax player Malin Wättring has proved herself as an outstanding composer with the first two albums of her Malin Wättring 4, the debut «Glöd» from 2015, which featured the quartet augmented with another quartet, and the acclaimed «Harvest» from last year, a collaboration with the Bohuslän Big Band (both released by Havtorn Records). Her third album «Live in Hamburg», with the same quartet that has been working together for seven years now, was recorded in the German NDR’s Radio Hall in September 2017. This album highlights the qualities of Wättring as a wise and generous band-leader and a charismatic soloist.
Wättring says that she is «never as brave as when I play with» her quartet and adds: «we haven’t been afraid to be vulnerable, and to me that is the greatest accomplishment! I believe that vulnerability is the key to your heart, and I really feel that we are making music with our hearts!» She is absolutely right. The whole of this quartet – pianist Nakoko Sakata, leader of her own trio, drummer Anna Lund, who plays with Wättring in Anna Högberg Attack! and leads her Hurrakel spectacle, and double bass player Donovan von Martens – is bigger than its separate parts.
«Live in Hamburg» features six extended pieces that allow the quartet to establish its open but tight and organic interplay, flow and its melodic and often lyrical atmosphere. These pieces emphasize the distinct personality of each musician. Sakata can change suddenly her course, the mood of the piece or its level of intensity and suggest alternative terrains. Lund colors the music with imaginative touches. Von Martens anchors gently the emphatic commotion while building a flexible rhythmic basis .
Wättring herself leads with confident yet modest solos that balance the thoughtful themes and her passionate playing and distills the emotional core of each piece. Take, for example, her phrasing on the new «Allegra» where she moves instantly from the singing-lyrical tone to dense-raging one and again to fragile-gentle tone. You may imagine a nuanced story about turbulent love, longing and loneliness, delivered with engaging reserve and elegance. And just follow the mood swings of «Glöd», originally featured on the debut album, that begins as an exquisite, chamber jazz piece and shifts later into a playful and powerful piece. «Den blå timmen» features Wättring in her most vulnerable state of mind, singing-crying her touching, melancholic phrases with great emotional power, answered beautifully by the quartet on the last «Endings». This piece brings back memories of a similar, captivating alchemy of another great quartet, Keith Jarrett’s Scandinavian one with Jan Garbarek, Palle Danielsson and Jon Christensen.
Malin Wättring (ts), Naoko Sakata (p), Donovan von Martens (b), Anna Lund (dr)