The avant-garde schema is sort of an open-world platform where almost anything goes. But Incline is an album that sheds a radiant light on the sax-drums duo format, featuring an inordinate degree of textural components and a seamless integration of two like-minded artists, performing on similar planes. Here, Swedish drummer Kjell Nordeson and American alto saxophonist Aram Shelton opt for a reclusive setting, tucked away in the mountains at a cabin in Lake Tahoe, NV. Perhaps all or most distractions were eliminated during the recording process, resulting in a comprehensive program, as depth, space, and power attain a synchronous plane.
The music offers a semi-structured outlook amid various detours via the duo’s focused game-plan. Shelton’s gritty sax lines often parallel Nordeson’s polyrhythmic patterns, asymmetrical pulses, and colorific use of cymbals. Moreover, the drummer tunes his kit within a range that mirrors Shelton’s tonaities, which is a factor that projects a tightly aligned forum.
Nordeson and Shelton generate a myriad of pulsating grooves to complement various breakouts. However, the oscillating dynamic rides atop a buoyant ebb and flow. For example, on “Village,” Shelton closes out with an abstract tribal groove, based on a screeching and spiraling plaintive cry. Yet they intersperse minimalist type passages throughout the session, enhanced by Nordeson’s ethereal cymbals treatments, yielding an uncanny sense of lyricism.
“Grade” is a piece centered on free-form sound-shaping and is fragmented by the duo’s unhurried line of attack, engineered on cavernous sounds, flirtatious dialogues, counterpoint and jaunty underpinnings. They also manage to build contrasting layers to inject a tiered perspective into the big picture partly due to Shelton’s subtle and fractured phrasings. Moving forward, the musicians’ micro-themes and gradual tension building episodes are countered by tumultuous rhythmic passages, and a nonconforming mode of operations. Thus, many of these aspects are evident on “Soles,” where a sense of urgency forecasts imagery of a life or death situation.
Shelton and Nordeson run on all cylinders but temper the currents to extract worldly views by purveying numerous concepts and nuances throughout the moving parts. This largely kinetic session is not restricted to borders or hardcoded applications. And it’s much more than the customary free-jazz crash and burn stylizations that seems to be the customary mode of discourse these days. Simply stated, there’s a whole lot going on under the hood.
Originally published at All About Jazz