Since forming in 1999 this explosive Scandinavian quintet has slowly but steadily made converts, on both sides of the Atlantic, to its thrilling, high-wire brand of post-bop, never more than with its brilliant 2011 album Here Comes Everybody (Jazzland). During the group’s early days the band tweaked and twisted hard bop verities with free jazz energy and harmonic fearlessness, but over its career the band’s internal creative restlessness has forced it to adapt more open-ended strategies. Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love—who played last year’s festival in a thrilling duet with 2012 Artist-in-Residence Ken Vandermark—is a powerhouse who toggles seamlessly between fractured swing propulsion and jittery, gut-punching breakdowns that constantly give his band mates plenty to work with.
Swedish reedist Fredrik Ljungvkist and Norwegian pianist Håvard Wiik have emerged as the band’s primary composers and their music plays thrilling formal experiments, as episodic tunes shift from heavily improvised passages to rigorously structured movements, splitting the difference between Art Blakey and a jacked-up Morton Feldman. A preoccupation with sound for its own sake collides with rhythmically fierce improvisation all the while deploying a language totally rooted in jazz. The group also includes the protean Swedish trumpeter Magnus Broo and the muscular Norwegian bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, a one-time Chicagoan who maintains close ties to local musicians, including his ongoing membership in the Rempis Percussion Quartet.