Esbjörn Svensson Trio: Untitled Hidden Track

Keep the CD going at the end, and you'll hear a hidden track for 4 minutes and 44 seconds of raucous, thrashing metal vamps and a wild solo by Berglund, where he engages his customary guitar pedals. This track demonstrates the "hybrid identity" of e.s.t., as do Svensson's own words in Stuart Nicholson's book Is Jazz Dead (Or Has It Moved To a New Address): "We want to hear stuff that bites us, we try to find that music. It's not a question that the only good music you can find is classical music or jazz, the problem is to find it and hear music and get inspired. I don't know how it works really, the creative filter or whatever, but it's fun."

July 24, 2008 · 0 comments

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Esbjörn Svensson Trio: From Gagarin's Point of View

The melody here is as serene as the Swedish night sky, but there will always be a brooding quality to the "Nordic tone" in jazz that is just as vital. Creating imaginative characterizations of a murky world that exists maybe only in fantasies, the trio plays with sensitivity and a style all their own.

July 24, 2008 · 0 comments

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Nils Landgren Funk Unit: You Dig

The groove of Bernard Purdie is distinctive, and bassist/vocalist Price has a lot going on as he delivers a fresh, flowing rap verse. This album was a tribute to Cannonball Adderley, and is accordingly less innovative than many other things Esbjörn Svensson did. Nonetheless, it is fun music and everyone seems comfortable executing it, especially with the addition of the Brecker brothers. Nowadays, The Funk Unit drives the tempo much faster on this party tune.

July 24, 2008 · 0 comments

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Swedish Radio Jazz Group: Sorrow Is the Birth of Joy

Hearing the fluidity and touch coming from Esbjörn Svensson at this fledgling stage in his career, one knows there will be much more inspired playing to come. The pianist has a long opening cadenza and accompanies the melody from Nilsson's briny bari sax with lush voicings and arpeggios. Although Riedel writes in the notes that this piece is designed to build like Ellington's "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue," this is an odyssey that spans territory ranging from "Sophisticated Lady" through "Tourist Point of View" and back.

July 24, 2008 · 0 comments

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Esbjörn Svensson Trio (E.S.T.): Somewhere Else Before

In an art form based on heroic individualism, E.S.T. stands out for its attempts to forge a collective identity. Esbjörn Svensson's talent looms large here, and he could have cast himself in the starring role, but instead he collaborates with Dan Berglund and Magnus Öström in painting a stirring sonic landscape. The composition itself is deceptively simple, based on motives of two or three notes. But this modest melody gives us all the more reason to admire the tapestry of delicate sound colors that E.S.T. builds around it. The open spaces and understated pulse here are handled masterfully. This is a different type of piano trio, and perhaps a harbinger of fresh, new way of playing jazz.

June 15, 2008 · 0 comments

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Andreas Oberg: Uptown Downtown

At age 29, Stockholm's Royal Music Academy alumnus Andreas Öberg has advanced to the fore of the burgeoning avant-garde European jazz scene for good reason: the cat is a monster. Those familiar with this young Swedish guitarist's aggressive virtuosity will be relieved to know that his latest effort, while more commercial in its appeal, doesn't target the listener's Kenny G-spot. On "Uptown Downtown," Andreas takes a funk-driven strut down 125th Street, blowin' hot all the way.

It takes moxie to tread on Pat Martino's turf, and Öberg is one of the few guitarists who can pull it off. He does so with tempered grace, delivering lightening arpeggios, deft sweeps and bubbly Benson-esque finger runs against Vic Stevens's solid backbeat before trading fours with Hendelmann in a not-so-cryptic nod to Eddie Harris's "Freedom Jazz Dance."

Purists need not demur – there's plenty of superb playing on this outing. While this is a great vehicle in which the neophyte listener can lose his or her jazz virginity, even virulent, hardcore boppers won't hate themselves in the morning.

May 19, 2008 · 2 comments

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Jan Lundgren: Angel Eyes

The fact that one of today's finest straight-ahead jazz pianists should be Swedish is nothing to wonder about. Europe, and specifically Scandinavia, has seen a lot of U.S. musicians come and preach the good word during the last decades (think of Dexter, Getz, Marsh, Red Mitchell, et al.), and their disciples have flowered. Lundgren's refined piano touch is a source of constant wonder on this ballad. He swings and improvises with the help of his excellent American partners in a delicate but never introverted manner, and his trio gives a truly timeless version of this beautiful standard.

February 27, 2008 · 0 comments

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Bobo Stenson: Bengali Blue

It begins with a slow, dancing beat from the most musical drums of Jon Christensen, joined by Anders Jormin's bass, singing in its lower register. When the piano enters after more than a minute, superposing a melody plucked on muffled strings, the atmosphere turns definitely Indian. The trio explores this Asian mode at medium tempo with great attention to the sonic quality of the interaction, marvelously creating space and suspense with a remarkable economy of notes.

February 26, 2008 · 0 comments

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Jan Allan: Polska With Trumpet

Jan Allan is one of Sweden's finest trumpet players, collaborating in live performance and recordings with such musicians as Gil Evans, George Russell, Bob Brookmeyer, Lee Konitz, Warne Marsh, and fellow Swedes Lars Gullin and Rolf Billberg. This track is included in an album which features three compositions for small ensemble, and three for large big band by Nils Lindberg, a classically trained composer/pianist whose music for saxophone ensemble, big band, symphony orchestra and/or choir is drenched in Swedish folk music. The ten-minute "Polska with Trumpet" is in sonata-allgreo form, and is an excellent example of composition for big band and soloist, perfectly balancing the written with the improvised. The solo in the 'A' section of the work is fully notated while the solo in the development portion is improvised, culminating in a trumpet/timpani cadenza. Also included in this section are exciting solos by Gustaffson and Aberg backed by trombones. The recording is a triumph for all participants, and not surprisingly, Jan Allan-70 won the Golden Record as the Best Swedish Jazz Recording of the Year by the magazine Orkester Journalen.

December 30, 2007 · 0 comments

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Esbjörn Svensson Trio (E.S.T.): Dating

Esbjörn Svensson's trio E.S.T. stands out as one of the most interesting European jazz ensembles of recent years -- but to call this a great European band is far too limiting. E.S.T. demands our attention as one of the finest piano trios to be found anywhere. I have long felt that many of the implications of the early ECM recordings, and in particular Keith Jarrett's masterful Facing You, have not been sufficiently understood and developed by later musicians. Jarrett himself went off in different directions, and no one else seemed interested or capable of mining this rich vein of harmonic textures and compositional devices. But E.S.T. builds new superstructures on this ground, adding much of their own inspiration and creativity in the process. Svensson, in particular, has a first-rate musical mind and shows here that he needs to be mentioned when the discussion turns to the best jazz pianists of the current day.

December 24, 2007 · 0 comments

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Anders Widmark: Sweet Georgia Brown

Anders Widmark usually likes to lock into a happy groove and milk it for everything it's worth. Hence "Sweet Georgia Brown" is a great choice for him, and even before hearing his performance I could almost see the basketball bouncing back and forth among the members of his hot Swedish trio. Flashy passes, slam dunks, the whole works. But Widmark surprised me by dismissing the rest of his trio and settling into a thoughtful solo piano reworking of the standard, with only a smattering of blues licks thrown into the mix. But the total effect is quite impressive. Widmark's reharmonization is especially clever, and shows a powerful musical mind at work.

December 23, 2007 · 0 comments

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Anders Widmark: Raga Muffin Man

There is not much Indian raga in "Raga Muffin Man," but you will find a double dose of flat thirds and flat sevenths. Imagine if Ramsey Lewis grew up in Sweden, and picture the 'In Crowd' transplanted to Stockholm. An unexpected image perhaps, but it gives you some sense of Anders Widmark and his seriously funky piano playing. When the jazz snobs tells you that Europeans don't really get down, play this song and watch their jaws drop.

December 23, 2007 · 0 comments

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Jan Johansson: Visa från Utanmyra

The best-selling jazz album of all time in Sweden is neither Kind of Blue nor A Love Supreme, but Jan Johansson’s Jazz på Svenska. It’s an album of Swedish folk tunes adapted to jazz by the visionary pianist to whom space, clarity and meaning was all. Even today, you can put a hotel radio or TV on in Sweden and hear this performance. It’s a classic example of “local” musicians outside the USA asserting their cultural identity within the music in a way that has immediate relevance to their own musical community. Jazz going from global to glocal.

November 09, 2007 · 1 comment

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Bengt-Arne Wallin: Ack Värmeland du Sköna

Stan Getz recorded this tune in Stockholm in 1951 (released in the USA on the Roost label). Miles Davis liked it and recorded it on Blue Note as “Dear Old Stockholm.” He recorded it again on his Columbia debut ‘Round About Midnight. It had a profound effect on Scandinavian musicians, who saw it as a green light to incorporate their own culture and folkloric heritage into jazz. Encouraged by Quincy Jones (with whom he shared an apartment in Stockholm at the time), Bengt-Arne Wallin came up with Old Folklore in Swedish Modern, an album of Swedish folk tunes for a large jazz ensemble from which this imaginative arrangement is drawn.

November 09, 2007 · 0 comments

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Lars Gullin: Danny's Dream

Gullin is notably the first Swedish jazz musician to compose with an authentically Nordic accent. During the year his quintessential composition “Danny’s Dream” was recorded, the Down Beat Critic’s Poll voted him Best New Star on his instrument. As the first foreigner to get this recognition, he showed fans that there was more to foreign jazz than Django Reinhardt. Some critics later grumbled that Gullin’s work was “goatherd’s jazz,” but musicians like Stan Getz and Lee Konitz, among others, acknowledged him as a uniquely gifted artist.

November 08, 2007 · 0 comments

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