Like a gust of fresh air, saxophonist Linda Fredriksson blew onto the Helsinki jazz scene in 2009 with Mopo. That irreverent trio released four acclaimed albums over a decade, while Fredriksson guested with many other bands. Last year the saxophonist reappeared with drummer Olavi Louhivuori’s Superposition and this year in Kiri Ra! with Swedish pianist Matti Bye.
On Juniper, a solo debut recorded over several years, Fredriksson brings along experiences from those groups – and people too, including Bye, half of Superposition and keyboard wonder Tuomo Prättälä, a fellow veteran of the funky Northern Governors.
The record showcases Fredriksson’s compositional strength, starting with the hymn-like opening track Neon Light [and the sky was trans]. Over an edgy, droning background, the saxophone sounds like a voice of reason and compassion in an unsettling world.
The album reveals new dimensions of Fredriksson’s personality and artistry. Beyond their prowess on saxophone, there is a wider palette of expression on guitar and keyboards as well as bass clarinet, with various horns multi-tracked for solo duets. Adding more synths are Prättälä and co-producer Minna Koivisto, veteran of many pop and electronic projects.
The electronics are subtle, though, never disturbing the homespun, leafy mood, with recurring references to trees in the artwork and titles.
Among these is Transit in the softest forest, walking, sad, no more sad, leaving, where Fredriksson offers a bewitching sax melody over a clanking, percussive shuffle before the veering into breathy free improv.
Loveliest (and longest) of all is Nana, an elegy for a lost matriarch. Fredriksson’s eloquent, full-bodied sax meshes with clarinet and burbling electronics, reaching cathartic intensity before a Satie-like piano epilogue from Bye.
Fredriksson adds humming vocals over acoustic guitar on the endearing Lempilauluni (My Favourite Song), which could have been a drifting-off-to-sleep album closer. Instead, the set ends with Clea. Here, as throughout, Juniper hangs in the balance between melody and dissonance – and melody wins out.
2021 We Jazz Records
Linda Fredriksson’s album release concert will take place on 5 November, 2021 at the 40th Tampere Jazz Happening.