29th Vilnius Jazz Festival. 13-16 October, 2016

Atomic

Sweden-Norway

Fredrik Ljungkvist – reeds
Magnus Broo – tp
Håvard Wiik – p
Ingebrigt Håker Flaten – b
Hans Hulbaekmo – dr

Since their inception in 2000, the Scandinavian ensemble Atomic has garnered widespread acclaim for creating a completely unique and identifiable sound. Initially rebelling to the quaintness of the “Scandinavian Sound”, Atomic found a unique sound of their own. It is an explosive blend of American free jazz with European characteristics inspired by the music of Archie Shepp, Derek Bailey, Charles Mingus and George Russell.

It would be difficult to find another group able to fuse the ideas of avant-garde jazz and contemporary classical music with such ease and virtuosity. Atomic’s ability to renew itself seems limitless, as though each step of its path to date has been as fresh as the one before it. With each new release they demonstrate their will to outdistance, outshine, outfox, outclass and outmanoeuvre their past work. Despite their achievements they are permanently hungry for experiments.

How does their music sound? Some call it surreal-jazz not complying with any compositional logics. Its thoughtfully constructed melodies alternate with explosive passages by way of fast, unexpected changes, but also mesmerise with the islands of fragile beauty. Håvard Wiik and Fredrik Ljungkvist, the group’s main composers, should be credited for that.

The five jazz masters dive in these complex compositions with incredible effortlessness as if facilitated by near-psychic communication skills. “If you ever wondered what synchronized swimming among man-eating sharks might sound like, this is probably as close as you’ll ever get” is how one reviewer has described them.

In 2014, the first change in personnel took place: Norwegian drummer Hans Hulbækmo replaced his compatriot Paal Nilssen-Love on the drum stool. Everyone in the group feels as though Hulbækmo has always been there.

Atomic is a group of very talented individual musicians, but when they come together, the whole is definitely better than the sum of its parts.

A new line-up has already recorded studio album Lucidity and introduced it in Europe, the USA and Japan. The Quintet’s discography amounts to 13 CDs among which two are collaborations with School Days and one with Chicagoan avant-gardist Ken Vandermark’s company. All members of Atomic work in other bands as well.

Throughout its career Atomic has remained one of the most significant groups on Scandinavian jazz scene. It garnered several Norwegian Grammies, Swedish Jazzkatten, as well as other national and international awards.


Swedish saxophonist, clarinettist and composer Fredrik Ljungkvist studied at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm. As jazz student he played with jazz bands. In 1993, he formed his own Quartet with which he released two albums.

 

In 2000, he composed a piece for the Pipeline project, a collaboration between Swedish and American musicians on initiative by the Svenska Rikskonserter. The piece was performed in Sweden and the USA.

He recorded albums with LSB trio (Ljungkvist, Raymond Strid and Johan Berthling), Territory Band, Parish Quartet (Bobo Stenson, Mats Eilertsen, Thomas Strønen and Ljungkvist), Firehouse and Yun Kan quintets, The Deciders, Fire! Orchestra and American jazz pianist Marilyn Crispell.

In 2004, the Swedish Jazz Society voted him the Musician of the Year.

After graduating from the University of North Texas, Swedish trumpeter Magnus Broo collaborated with Fredrik Norén group and Lennart Åberg Orchestra. Currently, he leads his own quartet, plays in Angles 8 and collaborates with Fredrik Nordström Quintet.

Norwegian pianist and composer Håvard Wiik ranks among the uppermost and most widely acclaimed jazz pianists in Norway. He made his first major appearance on the scene in 1995 with Element. Later he has been a key player in many groups such as Free Fall and School Days, has worked with several of his own trios and Motif, as well as in a duo with Hakon Kornstad, and projects with Axel Dorner and Fredrik Ljungkvist, among others. He has been a choice as collaborator with giants in jazz including Kenny Wheeler, Lee Konitz, Joe Lovano and Ken Vandermark.

Double bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten studied jazz at the Music Conservatory in Trondheim. Later he honed his skills with various Scandinavian and American groups. More than a decade ago he moved to the United States where he started forming his own bands.

Flaten draws inspiration from such diverse figures as Derek Bailey, George Russell, Chris McGregor and filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, as well as contemporary pop melody and gritty punk music and also everyday sights and sounds. The critics compare the double bassist to such celebrities as Paul Chambers, Wilbur Ware, Charlie Haden and Malachi Favors.

It would be difficult to imagine The Thing, Free Fall, Atomic and Scorch Trio without Flaten’s curiosity and flexibility. In 2004, the improviser made his debut as a leader with his Chicago Sextet, and since 2011 his aesthetics and philosophy has been communicated by Austin-based The Young Mothers.

“It’s inspiring to have your own band to write for, but you have to make sure that people feel free and not limited by the music; the compositions should lead the way to a player’s open mind” Flaten describes his artistic principles.

Flaten has also recorded and performed with Frode Gjerstad, Dave Rempis, Bobby Bradford, the AALY Trio, Ken Vandermark, Stephen Gauci, Tony Malaby, Daniel Levin, Dennis Gonzalez and numerous others.

Downbeat annual critics poll voted him a Rising Star on acoustic bass three times in a row, and once – an Established Talent on electric bass according.

Norwegian drummer Hans Hulbœkmo is one of the most promising Scandinavian jazz talents. In 2014, he made Atomic debut after only a one-hour sound check with the group for the first time in France. The result exceeded the expectations of the other band members and they welcomed Hulbækmo as the new drummer of Atomic. Newly-arrived Hulbœkmo more than ably batters and rattles in Paal Nilssen-Love’s stead, displaying a similar, yet personally signed, technique providing the group with some fresh blood.  

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