Vinyl Corner is a feature where we take a look at vinyl pressings of various albums and weigh them up to see just how good they sound, how well they’re pressed and what sort of packaging to expect – as well as giving a brief overview of the music itself. So much of today’s jazz feels polite and retiring that, when a group come along and dare to make something boisterous and confrontationally strange, it’s hard not to sit up and pay attention. We Jazz records’ latest release, ‘Koma Saxo’, is one such album and we’re here to give the low down on this fresh new offering.
Touted as a supergroup in their press release, Koma Saxo are a band of experienced players, many of whom have previously released music under Finnish label We Jazz. Led by Petter Eldh, Koma Saxo’s eponymous debut is an excitable record that feels firmly in touch with a history of innovative fringe jazz whilst still managing to cover some new ground of its own. Those familiar with the fiery free-jazz of John Coltrane’s late period will find a more contemporary reprisal of such a sound here; the band’s triple saxophone onslaught in particular provides much scope for frenzied honking and barking. Despite a clear tendency towards freeform avant-gardisms, Koma Saxo are at their best when working around the strong and propulsive grooves wrought by bassist Eldh and drummer Christian Lillinger. In the addition to Coltrane references, the surreal retro-futurisms of Sun Ra are evoked in the album’s best moments. Despite a tangible link to the past, Koma Saxo certainly do their best to establish themselves as a distinctly modern group.
Compared with the slower, more sultry end of jazz – and, indeed, much of We Jazz’s output – ‘Koma Saxo’ is loud enough that the music would likely mask any potential minor imperfections in the vinyl pressing. Fortunately, We Jazz can be relied upon for a great sounding record and this title is no exception. The noise floor is low and surfaces are tidy, boasting playback free of anything but a few minor and infrequent flaws now and then. Sonically, this is also impressive. The mastering is as dynamic as the performances, allowing for plenty of peaks and troughs in the soundstage. This is a frequently high-energy album and the punchy mastering embellishes the most climactic moments.
In our previous Vinyl Corner article we covered a different We Jazz release – Bowman Trio’s ‘Persistence’. In that review, we highly praised the excellent sleeve quality and noted just what a significant improvement it was over the packaging of earlier releases from the label. Koma Saxo’s presentation is no less impressive, boasting the same thick, heavy-duty tip-on style sleeve as ‘Persistence’ and an arresting, vivid art direction that truly befits the flighty, gleeful experimentation of the music. Not only are the colours vibrant and the image definition sharp, but the front cover has also been accented with gold foil that looks fantastic when caught in the light. Such aesthetic flare is unusual even in expensive and ostensibly luxurious box sets, so to see such a visual attention to detail here is a welcome surprise. Relative to the affordable price-point, this is certainly one of the most impressively presented releases we’ve reviewed at Vinyl Corner.
Both in presentation and sound, the vinyl release of ‘Koma Saxo’ is compellingly high-quality. Fans of visceral, exciting avant-garde jazz are likely to take much from this new offering and vinyl seems like the ideal way to hear it.
Enjoyed this feature? We’re always looking for further albums to highlight on Vinyl Corner – and if you have a vinyl release that you’d love to see written about here, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org – it would be great to hear from you!