March 12, 2015
Swedish trumpeter Goran Kajfes has been a notable presence on the Scandinavian scene for about 15 years, and while he's a superb and highly skilled jazz improviser, most of his work has triumphantly existed in the cracks and crevices between genres. He's probably best known for his key role in Oddjob, an amped-up quintet finding evermore possibilities in the electric music of Miles Davis. While Oddjob remains active—they're currently at work on their seventh studio album—of late the trumpeter has been making a serious splash with a large band he calls the Subtropic Arkestra.
In December the ensemble released their second strong record, The Reason Why Vol. 2 (Headspin), proffering further takes on an eclectic array of music that includes covers of tunes from Africa, Turkey, and Brazil, as well as early-70s prog-rock (Soft Machine, Cluster) and current indie rock (Tame Impala, Grizzly Bear). On paper that mixture doesn't sound especially promising, but the instrumental band consistently serves up scintillating arrangements that present the work in dynamic, new light. It helps that Kajfes is surrounded by some of Sweden's best players (jazz heavies like reedists Per "Ruskträsk" Johansson and Jonas Kullhammar and bassist Johan Berthling—with whom the trumpeter plays in Mats Gustafsson's Fire! Orcherstra—and the multifaceted rock guitarist Reine Fiske of Dungen), but the vision is all his. On the group's new record I keep hearing the Subtropic Arkestra as the Menahan Street Band transported to Communist-era Eastern Europe—that's a big compliment in my book. For today's 12 O'Clock Track you can listen to the knockout opener for the group's recent album, a medley of "Dokuz Seki/Esmerim," 70s Turkish tunes by Okay Temiz and Beyaz Kelebekler.