Søren Kjærgaard (piano, elec)
Thomas Strønen (drums, elec)
Torben Snekkestad (soprano sax, trumpet with sax mouthpiece)
It’s not often we see Scandinavian jazzers down here on the Iberian Peninsula. Must be the geography, a kind of cul-de-sac that doesn’t fit easily into European touring schedules. Even Barcelona, which is just a short jaunt across the Pyrenees. So, hard to miss this opportunity. Søren Kjærgaard’s work I was familiar with through his trio recordings (with Ben Street and Andrew Cyrille) and his sound experiments with Torben Ulrich. Likewise Thomas Strønen from Food, Meadow, and so on. Torben Snekkestad was new to me and something of a (divine?) revelation, but more on that later.
First, the venue. CCCB’s Sala Teatre is a large, impressive, oddly postmodern, and slightly chilly space. But true to their name, when the Living Room strolled on-stage, they were met with an audience lounging on beanbags and reclining chairs, with tiny lamps dotted around the floor’s many rugs. Cosy!
But what about the sounds? Well, it’s entirely possible that trio improvisation doesn’t get any better than this. Seriously. If I were doing a ‘best gigs of 2014’ list, this would be on it and quite nearly at the top; definitely top three. For all the occasional sound and fury – and things got pretty ‘busy’ at times – somehow the music remained delicate, sparse, minimalist even. And this despite the presence of two sets of electronics augmenting and echoing both drums and piano – they practically threw in everything but the kitchen sink (probably saving that for an encore) and still created an air of restraint and controlled passion.
Kjærgaard played a lot of prepared piano, laying objects on the strings, sticking duct tape to them, stroking them with either a phone card or a credit card (don’t leave home without it) to create and astonishing fretwork of sound that was then embellished by thunderous bass-end electronics.
Strønen’s drumming exemplified that particular brand of (largely) European clatter percussion: tapping, scraping, tinging, dropping beats, adding them, and then, when the moment was ripe, unafraid to unleash some sort of Ragnarok in what suddenly seemed like a very enclosed space. Beautiful.
While his bandmates created a constantly changing sonic backdrop, Snekkestad sat, eyes most often closed, losing himself in the storm before using his horns (sometimes two at a time, Kirkishly) to caress, stab, slash, trim, colourise, embroider and generally bring some late 60s ‘New Thing’ energy to the proceedings. God may or may not have been in the house, but at times it certainly felt as though Trane was.
Running the musical and emotional gamut from free to funk, and from sweet to sinister (with what seemed like a number of burst blood vessels in between), the Living Room are quite simply a force to be experienced. If you get the chance, do not hesitate.
(The usual great handful of photos from Elena Márquez).