You get few clues
about the nature of this disc from its slip-case, though there
are hints. Every one of the tracks - most of which are well
known renaissance motets with some plainchant - are credited
as being arranged by Jan Lundgren or Magnus Linden. The performers
include not only the Gustaf Sjökvist Chamber Choir, but Jan
Lundgren (grand piano, keyboards) and Lars Danielsson (bass,
cello), so this is obviously not an ordinary choral recital.
If the name Jan
Lundgren means anything to you then you will have an inkling
about the disc. Lundgren is a Swedish pianist who trained initially
in the classical tradition, discovered jazz in his early 20s
and studied at the Royal College of Music in Malmö. He released
his first album in 1994 and has gone from strength to strength
on the Swedish and International Jazz scenes. He seems to be
constantly attempting to extend jazz in a variety of new directions.
His previous album
Mare Nostrum was made with Sicilian trumpeter Paolo Fresu
and accordion virtuoso Richard Galliano. It included re-workings
of material by Charles Trenet, Maurice Ravel and Tom Jobim alongside
Swedish folksongs. This new disc, Magnum Mysterium was
recorded in Storkyrkan (Stockholm’s cathedral), with a highly
respected Swedish chamber choir.
This is one of a
number of discs which seem to want to build on the Hilliard
Ensemble’s disc Officium made with jazz saxophonist Jan
Garbarek. For that disc the Hilliard sang a selection of motets
by composers from an older generation than on this disc, and
Garbarek improvised an extra voice line.
Lundgren takes a
slightly different route on this disc. His piano playing sometimes
accompanies the choral music but for much of the time it intercuts
providing preludes, interludes and postludes to the renaissance
pieces. The choral music seems to be sung relatively straight,
but by encompassing it with his piano Lundgren forces us to
listen to it with his ears.
The results are
slightly curious. At times Lundgren accompanies, adding a rather
uneasy piano riff to music which would stand well on its own.
At other times, when playing on his own Lundgren introduces
harmonies reminiscent of the source piece into his piano playing.
The results sound a little alien, as if Mozart had wandered
in to jam with Miles Davies.
And that is the
biggest problem here; whereas Garbarek and the Hilliard manage
to create fascinating syntheses, Lundgren and his choir seem
only to reach an uneasy co-existence. Only occasionally do things
gel and you get a track, like the Kyrie from Franchino
Gaffurio’s Missa De Carneval.
This is a disc which
seems to fit in no single category. It will probably sound a
little too constrained for jazz enthusiasts and makes too free
with the source material for classical folk.