CD REVIEW: Michael Aadal Group - Pomona

Michael Aadal Group - Pomona
(Losen Records LOS 158-2. CD Review by Peter Jones)

Once more, Norway calls. This time it’s an atmospheric guitar album with a strongly American influence – the third from this band. Even the title refers to the site of the original Fender guitar factory in Los Angeles. The sleeve notes point out that bandleader Michael Aadal is here playing only solid-body Fender guitars, as opposed to the hollow-bodied variety traditionally favoured by jazz guitarists.

In places, such as the opening track The Border, the album is reminiscent of something by Mark Knopfler, evoking those sleepy, dusty western towns where folks don’t say too much. This tune builds like a Bruce Springsteen number, with André Kassen, whom I recently heard (and reviewed) playing with Rune Klakegg and the Scheen Jazzorkester, on blaring tenor saxophone.

The melodies are minor-key, slow-moving, largely pentatonic. They generate a certain majestic power, created by the doubling or harmonizing of lines by lead guitar, tenor and the pedal steel of Anders Høfstad Sorås. The soloing is not showy, but melodic and deeply-felt, especially on the elegiac Leaving. The album summons up a world in which a track entitled Purgatory sounds like a waltz played at a small town barn dance.

Rather like Mathias Eick’s excellent Midwest album from last year, this one reminds us of the cultural link between Scandinavia and those large areas of the US that were settled by Norwegians and Swedes in the 19th century.

Pomona is more of a rock than a jazz album, and none the worse for that. Unlike much of jazz, you can enjoy having it on in the background.

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