Atomic comes this close to being a Scandinavian free jazz supergroup. It allies the top line of Fire House and the Fredrik Noren Band (trumpeter Magnus Broo and saxophonist Fredrik Ljungkvist) and the rhythm section from Element (pianist Håvard Wiik), bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love. Formed in reaction to the ECM-style of modern jazz that came to equal "Scandinavian jazz" in the minds of music fans worldwide, the group proposes a modernized take on power jazz, drawing from American Fire Music (Archie Shepp, Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman) and '60s European free improv (Peter Brötzmann's Machine Gun).
Broo and Ljungkvist had been performing together in Stockholm (Sweden) since the mid-'90s. Based in Oslo (Norway), Wiik, Håker Flaten, and Nilssen-Love all frequented the Trondheim Music Conservatory in 1994-1995 and performed in the John Coltrane-inspired group Element. By 1999, all these musicians regularly worked on the Scandinavian club and jazz festival circuits. Ljungkvist, Håker Flaten, and Nilssen-Love also played in Per "Texas" Johansson's group, so they all knew each other well when they decided to form Atomic. By harnessing Brötzmann-like energy with torrid heads and flexible compositional structures, they quickly established their group identity and began touring right away. Early appearances at the Oslo Jazz Festival and the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival attracted some attention and soon the label Jazzland secured the release of their first album Feet Music (the title coming from a Coleman tune). ~ François Couture