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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



Phono Suecia PSCD 185



1. Grains 1
2. Grains 2
3. Grains 3
4. Pisagua
5. Shorters Quarters
6. Du Ska Tacka
7. Var Ar Du Nu?
8. Elements - Fire
9. Elements - Water
10. Elements - Wind
11. Elements - Earth

The compositions on this album are all by Ann-Sofi Soderqvist, a first-class trumpet and flugel soloist, as well as being a brilliant composer and arranger. The Norrbotten Big Band from Sweden is an excellent group of musicians and the recording is one of the best I have heard in a long time.

I must confess that I could not always understand everything that was going on, but it was certainly rewarding to try. I have not listed all the musicians, because I doubt that the names are well known outside Scandinavia, but it is a conventional big band line-up.

Vocalist Lena Swanberg has a pleasant voice and adds another dimension to the album; the arrangements are very skilfully orchestrated around her voice, so that it blends into the overall sound of the musical production.

The soloists are all interesting and capable of making very creative solos against the background of the various themes. Personally I don’t like the musical mayhem that occurs every so often, when everyone seems to be soloing at once against the rhythm section pounding away at full bore!

Track 5 has the band in more traditional big band mode and soloists Dan Johannson on flugel and Mats Garberg really raise the temperature. The ensemble playing is clean and precise and the rhythm section drives everything along with great gusto!

On track 6 after the vocal, there is some good flugel from the leader, but this track starts like folk song and then gets over-complicated in the middle. Track 7 features Tim Hagens on trumpet, who is no doubt an excellent musician, but I found this track dismal and hard to enjoy.

The album concludes with the suite in four parts called Elements. This is an interesting and difficult piece of work, which the band tackles brilliantly. Tim Hagens is again featured on trumpet in Fire. Water starts in a more peaceful mode featuring pianist Johan Zakrisson, who makes a significant contribution against big chords from the ensemble. Wind has a complex rhythm played against a trumpet theme statement. Finally Earth: this track has a huge ensemble sound, with the trumpet sounding like Miles Davis in Porgy and Bess!

This album demonstrates beyond all doubt the musical talent available in Sweden. I did not enjoy everything they played: many of the compositions seem overcomplicated to me. How I would like to hear this band in a straight-ahead swing mode. I guess they would all claim they have moved on from that…but where have they moved on to?

Don Mather

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