As the month of March careened toward April, UC San Diego’s vital nightspot the Loft hosted one of the finest evenings of free jazz this writer has seen in quite some time, when the Swedish trio Angles 3 kicked off a short West Coast tour in our fair town.
Angles 3 even have a San Diego connection: Their drummer, Kjell Nordeson, has been living here for the last few years, attending UCSD in pursuit of a doctorate degree. Nordeson is a fiery yet subtle percussion master who has greatly enhanced the local music atmosphere every time he plays.
The other members of the group -- saxophonist Martin Kuchen and bassist Ingerbrigt Haker Flaten -- clearly enjoyed the reunion with Nordeson, who confessed after the gig, “There’s nothing like playing with old friends.”
Nordeson’s cymbal washes and Elvin Jones-like groove embedded with Flaten’s rope-thick bass vamp in support of Kuchen’s screechy, acidic alto explorations on “Today Is Better Than Tomorrow,” which also featured a strumming bass solo and a decidedly authentic 1960s improvising aesthetic.
A fierce ostinato and thundering drums opened the door for peeling blasts into the altissimo register on Kuchen’s “Every Woman Is a Tree,” which rocketed into a free for all that referenced everything from Sonny Rollins’s “Way Out West” to Albert Ayler’s “Bells,” including a manic walk from Flaten.
“Don’t Ruin Me” leaned heavily on Kuchen’s gravelly tenor saxophone tone and became a study in dynamics and the strain of three against four. Nordeson’s drums served as a violent liturgy that lifted the warbled screams into a higher sonic dimension.
The second set reached an early zenith with Kuchen’s suite, “By Way of Deception,” which began with hypnotic circular-breathing and morphed into a groove supporting multiple themes, all centered by Flaten’s incredible ability to sustain a vamp long past the point where his fingers should have broken off. A new vision emerged, this one birthed in a pensive ostinato that led into a remarkable Nordeson novella that toggled between small clicks and clacks and wicked shots across the bow.
It all came to a brilliant climax on “Satan in Plain Clothes,” where Flaten’s eerie ponticello bowing evoked seagull cries before burrowing into disruptive scrapes and almost punk-rock strumming under the sandpaper rasp and hoarse screams of Kuchen, while Nordeson filled the room with quiet fury.