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Ralsgård & Tullberg

Nos Honks

Gisen, Ulvsand & Tullberg
All titles Kap Syd (www.kapsyd.com)

Wooden flute aficionados, unite! These three recordings all feature Markus Tullberg, Swedish flute wunderkind, in a number of different projects that draw out the dynamics of his instrument. Specifically, Tullberg utilizes the wooden transverse flute, which was an important part of the southern Swedish folk tradition from the 19th to the 20th centuries. The tone of the flute is never piercing; generally, Tullberg brings a rich, mellow sound to each band concept.

For +1, Tullberg is paired with Andreas Ralsgård on an array of traditional and more recently composed tunes; this is the duo's second album together. The arrangements on +1 are fleshed out with additional accompaniment, including nyckelharpa, cello, and harpsichord. The tasteful array of instruments makes for a disciplined rusticity, with even a Leopold Mozart tune sitting amongst the 'polskas' and 'marschs.' Ralsgård and Tullberg are clear that they are engaged in reviving old flute tunes, even arranging fiddle tunes for the flute repertoire; they complement each other nicely, providing wonderful sweeping rhythms that manage to connote a much bigger sound than one might suppose (as on the lovely "Waltz After Johan Jacob Berghman").

Dan "Gisen" Malmquist (clarinet), Jens Ulvsand (bouzouki and vocals), and Markus Tullberg make up the trio on Diphtong. Here, the emphasis is on Swedish traditional music, but each band member contributes some new tunes. It's always a pleasure to hear Malmquist's clarinet, which he manages to invest with such joy that the instrument practically sounds mystical – it makes an interesting foil for Tullberg's transverse flute. Ulvand's bouzouki lends tremendous drive to the sets, and the net effect is that of a 'classic' sound that whirls and weaves like a dark, reedy version of the band Frifot. A set such as "Fattig man/Vattenringar" brings together the fine vocals of Ulvsand, leading into Tullberg's solo playing before being joined by the deep thrum of Malmquist's clarinet; it's a combination that makes for a very memorable album.

Nos Honks is the most 'world' oriented of the three projects. Tullberg is joined by Swedish jazz saxophonist Jonas Knutsson and Breton wooden flute player Anna Roussel (also a guest on +1). Perhaps the closest parallel group would be another trio that featured Knuttson, Triptyk (with Ola Bäckström and Johan Hedin, on fiddle and nyckelharpa). On Prisma, Nos Honks indulges in the music of Sweden, Ireland, and Brittany, as well as modern compositions. Roussell's "Minuit à New York," which begins the disc, manages to sound like a Philip Glass minimalist experiment: a sign that Nos Honks are going to take risks with their material. And, as with jazz bands, the traditional tunes function to ground the group, serving as a foundation for experimentation. Nos Honks remind the listener of an unconventional chamber music trio, albeit comprised entirely of wind instruments. I'm particularly struck by Jonas Knutsson's restraint in this context, as he never really wails but often blends amongst Roussel and Tullberg's flutes, sometimes goading them on, or serving as a contrasting color when soloing.

Each of these CDs offers a unique listening experience, leaving flute and Swedish folk music lovers spoilt for choice. – Lee Blackstone

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