The music featured nightly at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Chestnut Street as part of XRIJF's "Nordic Jazz Now" series is perfect for the contemplative listener. The Scandinavian artists who perform there tend to have a more cerebral approach to the art form of jazz-less demonstrative or overtly showy and more nuanced and dedicated to layers of subtlety.
The Swedish quartet known as The Splendor (a brilliant moniker) -- saxophonist and bass clarinetist Lisen Rylander Löve, bassist Josef Kallerdahl, drummer Lars Källfelt, and pianist Fabian Kallerdahl -- creates a mood more than it plays a tune, and explores timbre and textures more than it lays down straightforward grooves.
And yet, on Saturday, the band delivered plenty of beautiful melodies -- fluid and vaguely melancholic that kept the music from slipping into the inaccessibly esoteric. The majority of these melodies came via the rich, warm, and soulful tone of Löve's saxophone, which was able to luxuriate in Fabian Kallerdahl's dark and elegant chordal vocabulary in the piano.
The band's 9:45 p.m. set focused primarily on selections from its latest release, the 2014 double album, "Forest." Highlights included "The Riddle," a slowly unfolding song that began with crystalline, harp-like twinkling from Löve's synthesizer, before she eventually accompanied herself with a gorgeous Björk-like vocalise.
Later on, the music became suddenly raucous with "Trains," as Löve's soprano sax wailed over a bed of shifting piano harmonies, appropriately detached percussion, and bass patterns that were clearly felt but barely heard.
In "Templehof Story," the vertiginous melody line shared by the tenor saxophone, piano, and bass, as well as the band's detailed attention to timbre approximated a contemporary classical music style, but things never got too heady, thanks to Löve's deliciously romantic saxophone solos.
Löve is clearly the soul of the band, but Josef Kallerdahl is the spine, softly and insistently providing the music with the indispensable rhythmic alignment it needs to move forward. Otherwise, The Splendor's atmospheric and ethereal brand of jazz would become a mere formless soundscape. Meanwhile, Källfelt's drum sound possessed an ever-present cool, not unlike the slightly impressionistic style of drummer Jerry Granelli of the Vince Guaraldi Trio.
For more on The Splendor, you can visit the band's website at thesplendor.nu.
Saturday's festival attendees more interested in front-and-center grooves and punchy brass timbres were in luck, care of a free concert from classic rock and jazz outfit Blood, Sweat & Tears. And though the group's 60's-era vocalist David Clayton-Thomas no longer sings with the group, the band -- fronted by former American Idol runner-up Bo Bice -- didn't miss a beat. A packed outdoor audience filled the intersection of East and Chestnut and thrilled to such hits as "Spinning Wheel" and "You've Made Me So Very Happy." These kinds of XRIJF concerts feel much more about soaking in the fun festival vibe than delving into deep listening, but that doesn't necessarily make them any less valuable.