In quantum mechanics, superposition is the ability of a system to be in multiple states at the same time. Drummer Olavi Louhivuori’s new band Superposition is also capable of multiple simultaneous states, from sensitive balladry to free-jazz intensity.
Superposition is a supergroup of sorts, with all four members active in many groups. Louhivuori is one of the country’s top jazz drummers, anchoring Oddarrang, Elifantree, the Alexi Tuomarila Trio, and one of Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stańko’s final groups. There are two saxophonists: Linda Fredriksson, who has blazed an international trail with Mopo and Adele Sauros of Katu Kaiku, where she plays with OK:KO bassist Mikael Saastamoinen. Each of these musicians can be fiery but the sum of their parts is surprisingly restrained and dry. Louhivuori runs a tight ship here, disciplined and lean.
The focus is on his strong melodic compositions, including three moving ballads. Saastamoinen shines with a bass solo on the laconically-titled Ballad No. 3. He also wrote Antiplace, which starts the album with its sprightly, spiky head and angular sax solos. Fredriksson contributes the album’s longest piece, the wistful Wasteland, the sound of a circus band that’s just been told the rest of their tour is cancelled.
On the lovely Miimo, Louhivuori gets more experimental with blank spaces and percussion, suggesting the little instruments of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Fredriksson’s ponderous baritone underpins Sauros’s delicate tenor, followed by the brief soundscape Choral. In the old days, having two saxophonists in a band often meant testosterone-driven cutting contests. Here though the horns alternate and duet with a collaborative spirit. And there’s no machismo in the rhythm section, either.
Louhivuori’s drumming is understated except on the album’s most powerful piece Bilawal, named after a Hindustani raga expressing deep devotion. The charged, sometimes anguished spiritual mood suggests the late work of John Coltrane, who studied North Indian ragas. Like Coltrane’s final partner Rashied Ali, Louhivuori moves from smouldering muscularity to stuttering, splashing ecstasy.
Adele Sauros: tenor saxophone
Linda Fredriksson: alto and baritone saxophone
Mikael Saastamoinen: bass
Olavi Louhivuori: drums
We Jazz Records WJLP21/ WJCD21, 2020