(Fundacja Sluchaj!)

Reedist Frode Gjerstad describes this recording as the indirect consequence of a couple of gigs with Fred Lonberg-Holm and Matthew Shipp going up in smoke at the last minute, due to conflicting schedules. With that in mind, there’s little to complain about the outcome of Plan B. Tales From is so dense with twists, turns and implicit humor that it could suffice for a whole week at full volume. On the other hand, after reading the names of the musicians involved, missing the target of a rewarding experience was improbable. Gjerstad kept Lonberg-Holm in the game; William Parker and Steve Swell quickly rounded out a veritable all-star team.

In this case, “rewarding” means subjecting the auditory system to a continuous stream of lively, occasionally exuberant improvisations, with rare dynamic slowdowns. And even when that happens — see “The Lie”, or the concluding “The Immolation,” tracks where the instrumental voices find space to emerge from the mix — we are still closer to an affirmation of being rather than a desire to pull back. Swell enhances mental stretchiness via the decodable fragments of a garrulous trombone’s jargon; Lonberg-Holm’s cello generates incisive tones and awkward linearity whatever the (in)harmonic setting. Parker patrols the low frequency shores with typical wisdom and steady hands, whereas the instigator Gjerstad is absolutely happy to soar through collective sonorities between metaphysical and merely physical.

The wider-than-expected palette (Parker, for one, didn’t limit himself to double bass but added tuba, flutes and cornet) certifies the quartet’s willingness to deliver pure expression from any kind of stylistic constriction. The sonic flow runs parallel with the need to compare the respective improvisational modalities, each performer well aware that they’re playing with trusted friends who are able to understand, support and reinforce what is exposed without reticence. This fundamental tranquility — in spite of the overall loquacity — is, in essence, the reason why listening to Tales From conveys a sense of contentment to live this very moment, absorbing combinations of beneficial frequencies as the textural information fulfils our necessities.