The Scandinavian countries, with well-funded symphony orchestras, have been producing a new generation of composers who write for them. The best of these, a group that undoubtedly includes Anders Hillborg, have begun to attract attention and commissions from outside the region. Three of this group of four works from between 2010 and 2014 (Hillborg has been at it for decades) had commissioners from outside Sweden, and the mighty centerpiece, Sirens, was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic (whose former music director, Esa-Pekka Salonen, conducts it) and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
As demonstrated by the four works on this disc, the music of Anders Hillborg couples complexity with directness, sensuality with humour, hypnotic meditation with pulsating rhythms, and all is combined with an original sense of form and unfaltering craftsmanship.
The late and lamented Derek Bailey has suggested that due to the current state of jazz—"a comfortable reminder of the good old days was one of his more sympathetic characterizations—a complete separation of jazz and improvised music is in effect. Aorta's sophomore effort, Janus, makes a good case for the validity of Bailey's point. The Swedish band, centered around NY-based guitarist Anders Nilsson, immediately presents in the opening "Operation: Janus" the elements which make up its music, none of which are considered jazz.
Out of Sweden comes new jazz sounds from guitarist Anders Nilsson's group Aorta, a group that glances briefly back at the late '60s and '70s, then forges ahead, showing some possible directions for the music to go if it is to remain vital. Aorta probably won't be doing a week at the Vanguard any time soon, but if there's any music that can even remotely be called jazz and has any chance of capturing the ears of teens and twenty-somethings (the holy grail in music sales), this is it.