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Bothen Christer Featuring Bolon Bata


Label: Black Truffle Records

Genre: Jazz / Avant Garde


  • LP €30.99
    In Stock
Black Truffle is pleased to announce the first vinyl reissue of Trancedance, a wild slice of Swedish Afro-fusion from Christer Bothén, originally released in 1984. A major figure in Swedish jazz and improvised music since the 1970s, often heard on bass clarinet and tenor sax, Bothen studied doso n’koni (the large six-stringed ‘hunter’s harp’ of the Wasulu) in Mali in 1971-2 before turning to the guinbri (the three-stringed lute of the Gnawa/Gnauoua) in Marakesh later in the decade. In between, he performed extensively with Don Cherry during his Organic Music Society period and taught Cherry the doso n’koni. In the later 70s and 80s he worked with the most important figures in the distinctive Swedish jazz-rock-world fusion scene, joining Archimedes Badkar for their African-influenced Tre and participating in Bengt Berger’s legendary Bitter Funeral Beer Band. Many of the musicians who played on the Bitter Funeral Beer Band’s ECM LP (including Berger on drums, Anita Livstrand on voice and percussion and Tord Bengstsson on piano, violin and guitar) joined Bothén for one of the sessions that produced Trancedance, the first release under his own name, dedicated to his compositions. The other session introduced his seven-piece group Bolon Bata, heard on the second track of each side. The title track opens the album with the rubbery buzzing strings of the doso n’goni playing a hypnotic ten beat pattern, soon joined by bass and piano before the entire nine-piece group kicks in with a rollicking Afro-jazz workout, Berger’s drums driving an intricate, winding melodic line played by the horns with Mattias Helden’s cello throwing in pizzicato slides and smears. Bothén then takes centre stage on tenor sax, soloing with a wide, vibrating tone and moving seamlessly from soaring melodies to guttural stutters. After a return to the composed horn lines and a solo from Elsie Petrén on alto sax, the piece builds to an ecstatic conclusion of yelping voices and handclaps, gradually simmering down to return to the solo doso n’koni where it began.

The hypnotic sounds of the hunter’s harp carries over to ‘Mimouna’, where it is joined by Bothen’s overdubbed guinbri. The piece develops into a haunting whispered and sung invocation, gradually building momentum until the organic textures of strings, voices, and hand percussion are ruptured by Lennart Söderlund’s distorted guitar, which brings an unmistakable touch of 1984 to the otherwise timeless sound. Joined by chicken scratch guitar and increasingly dominated by the insistent clang of three of Bolon Bata’s members on karqab (a kind of cast-iron castanet), the grove develops frenetically.

The B side opens with the multi-part epic ‘9+10 Moving Pictures for the Ear’, at over 16 minutes the record’s longest piece. Though Bothen is heard only on horns on this piece, the hypnotic repeating bass line carries on the first side’s link to African musical traditions. Using an expanded 16-piece ensemble, the music balances untethered improvisation with carefully arranged passages of knotty ensemble playing that at points suggest Mingus, Moacir Santos or some of the ambitious post-free work being done in the same years by figures like David Murray or Henry Threadgill. The piece ends with a triumphant passage of looping unison melody reminiscent of the Scandinavian folk explorations of Arbete och Fritid (whose Kjell Westling is heard on bass clarinet and soprano sax here). The sound of Bjorn Lundqvist’s fretless bass introduces the odd left turn made by the record’s final track, a spaced-out expedition into bluesy horn lines and distant guitar atmospherics set to a semi-reggae beat, perfumed by the core Bolon Bata group and bearing the appropriate title of ‘The Horizon Stroller’. A must for fans of the Swedish scene around groups like Arbete och Fritid and Archimedes Badkar, as well as any listener who has been seduced by Louis Moholo’s Spirits Rejoice!, The Brotherhood of Breath, or, more recently, the guinbri grooves of Natural Information Society, Trancedance is a lost classic ripe for rediscovery.