One Track Mind: Pixel, "Call Me" (2012)

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Ornette Coleman used it, and so did Gerry Mulligan. And now, a quartet of Norwegians in their mid-20s is doing it, too. However Pixel, as this Nordic combo is called, isn’t making Harmolodics out of the non-chordal trumpet/sax/standup bass/drums configuration. Instead, they fire their weapons with the vigor of indie rock and improvisational freedom of modern jazz. That hybrid isn’t anything new, but it’s usually attempted with at least one rock instrument, like a guitar, or keyboards.

Pixel has other plans with what to do with this potent combination of styles. This band is the creation of Ellen Andrea Wang, who plays bass, composes the music, and on roughly half the tracks, sings. She’s backed by some of Norway’s finest up and coming musicians: Jon Audun Baar (drums), Harald Lassen (saxophone) and Jonas Vemøy (trumpet). Earlier this year, they introduced their first album, Reminder, and if you thought you had Scandinavian jazz pegged, this record blows away all notions about how it’s supposed to sound like, except the part about it being creative and original.

“Call Me” is the standout track of several standout tracks, because it’s where both the vocal and instrumental sides of the band intersect perfectly. Wang is quite the supple bass player, not especially easy I would suppose when there is nothing else between the horns and drums, and here her cool, funky bass ostinato kicks off the song and mates to Baar’s Afro-Cuban beat. And then, Wang launches into her vocal/trumpet unison with Vemøy as she pouts impatiently through the rhythmically charged lines (sung in pretty good English, by the way):

I’ve been wai-ting ma-ny days for you to call me/Why don’t you call me?
I’ve been thinking a lot about you, want you to call me/Oh won’t you want me?

The notes reach high and then dip low, accentuating the histrionics in her pleas. The middle part briefly pairs Vemøy with Lassen, and both continue to play along with the beat in a playful way instead of over it, a handful of horn blasts, and then it’s back to those delectably petulant, trumpet-backed verses.

Brash meets brass, indeed.

Reminder went on sale May 8, by Cuneiform Records. Visit Pixel’s website for more info.

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S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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