Scandinavian quintet Atomic find hidden possibilities in the music of others | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Scandinavian quintet Atomic find hidden possibilities in the music of others


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Scandinavian quintet Atomic first convened in 2000, and even after nearly two decades, they never have trouble generating material in-house. Saxophonist and clarinetist Fredrik Ljungkvist, trumpeter Magnus Broo, pianist Håvard Wiik, bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, and drummer Hans Hulbœkmo (who replaced original drummer Paal Nilssen-Love in 2014) are all fluent improvisers in free and structured settings. Both Wiik and Ljungkvist write involving, multipart compositions that reconcile the contrasting energy levels, rhythmic imperatives, and structural ambitions of contemporary classical music with the post-bebop jazz continuum. Last year’s Pet Variations (Odin) is the band’s first album of tunes by outside composers, and while the choice to play pieces written by the likes of Jimmy Giuffre, Jan Garbarek, Olivier Messiaen, and Brian Wilson shows their musical roots, the ways that they recast them suggest that Atomic are as good at finding hidden possibilities within someone else’s music as they are at creating their own; in 1964 Paul Bley played “Walking Woman,” which was written by his then-wife Carla Bley, as a frantic post-bebop pile-up, but Atomic ease the tempo and add just enough space to reveal the elegance of the tune’s design. The droning bass and gently insistent rhythm they add to Edgard Varèse’s “Un Grand Sommeil Noir” draw deep-blue tragedy out of an already mournful melody. And they transform the Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” from a scrap of fey psychedelia into a brawny, swinging anthem.   v

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