By Josef Woodard | Published April 2019
Contrary to the lyrical, atmospheric suggestion of its title, Mountain Solitude—the debut release from Line & The Lions, a troupe led by Norwegian saxophonist Line Falkenberg—leans into rock and funk. Falkenberg’s a strong and classically trained musician who followed her heart into fusion-hued terrain during the early 2000s, and has something intriguing and fresh to offer with this release.
Sturdy and spirited playing sparks the proceedings, starting with the opening track, “Vårflow (Spring Flow),” and the leader’s sharp soprano solo. Despite the promise and a sense of a work-in-progress, not everything comes together as cohesively as it might on future recordings; Falkenberg’s compositional sense can sound sketchy or just shy of originality. The title track, for instance, unfolds with her reverb-bathed intro, but lapses into an unremarkable groove, and “Loke” suffers from melodic stiffness. But artistic focus arrives later in the album, as on the melancholy tinged “Sorry” and the spooky fusion vamp of “Under Terskelen (Below The Threshold),” underscored by an ambling plectrum-played bass and Falkenberg’s smartly sculpted solo.
Jazz history speckles the path here with hints of the iconic “A Love Supreme” tucked inside a rhythm guitar part on “Shannon” and capping off the trumpet solo on “Happy.” Arabic airs swirl on the entrancing, sinuous closer, “Chicky,” along with a sense of better things to come from this outfit.
Mountain Solitude: Vårflow (Spring Flow); Loke; Vassdraget (The Watercourse); Afterski (After Ski); Alene Pa Fjellet (Mountain Solitude); Shannon; Vandreren (The Wanderer); Sorry; Under Terskelen (Below The Threshold); Novembertone (November Tone); Happy; That’s it; Chicky. (71:04)
Personnel: Line Falkenberg, alto, soprano saxophone; Hayden Powell, trumpet; Andreas Haddeland, guitar, baritone guitar, rubab; Finn Guttormsen, bass; Jarle Verspestad, drums.