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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Swedish Azz - Jazz På Svenska (Not Two, 2010) ****

The album has the look and feel of a jazz album of the fifties : a vinyl production, the size of a 78 rpm disk (but played at 33 rpm), including the great stylish artwork and back cover reminiscent of the period. The music is a celebration of the Swedish jazz masters of the 50s, who were quite influenced by the cool West Coast jazz. The album contains three compositions, one by pianist Lars Werner and two by baritone saxophonist Lars Gullin.

Their music is played first reverently, with full melody and rhythm, but then the band shifts the whole thing into a modern package, including live electronics.

The band is Mats Gustafsson on alto, baritone saxes and live electronics, Kjell Nordeson on vibraphone, dieb13 on turntables, Per-Ake Holmlander on tuba and cimbasso, and Erik Carlsson on drums and selected percussion.

The first piece, "Drottningholm Ballad" starts like a slow ballroom dance, with repetitive melody, all sweet and nice, then it turns into a kind of nightmarish noise context. The second piece, "Danny's Dream" has the opposite structure : out of noise and unrelated sounds, the melody arises, followed by the rhythm, then the whole thing fizzles away at the end.

"Silhouette", the last piece, again starts with weird sounds, piercing sometimes, out of which the beautiful and sweet melody emerges, played by Gustafsson and Nordeson, wonderfully capturing the sound of the times, albeit hesitant and with a question mark, including the gimmicky repetition as if the needle got stuck somewhere in the middle of the piece, before the electronics take over completely, dark and gloomy, yet it ends again with sax and vibes playing the theme, all soft and sweet.

I am not an electronics fan, but it works in this context : the open and free interpretation of the music, together with the noise element creates a great contrast and tension with the original material, which is by definition part of the fifties' vision of the unencumbered, optimistic and worriless lifestyle of affluence and personal enjoyment. The more critical, more pessimistic and world-conscious attitude of today's musicians works as great counterweight to the original attitude. Yet the great thing is that they do not destroy the original, quite to the contrary, they lift it to a higher, contemporary level.

Watch the band at Alchemia (Poland) in February of this year.

Buy from Instantjazz.

© stef