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

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Jonas plays Gullin




1. Without a chance [4:42]; 2. Itís true [5:08]; Suite: 3. Toka voka oka boka [2:24], 4. The waltz [5:08]; Merlin [4:30]; 6. Lars meets Jeff [4:31]; 7. Late summer [3:09]; 8. Bugs [4:16]; 9. Late date [2:21]; 10. Dyningar [3:39]; 11. I have seen [5:17]; 12. Peter of April [5:06]; Bonus Track: 13. Forever (Eddie Gomez) [4:45]

Bertil ďJonasĒ Jonasson (Saxes), Kjell ÷hman (piano & keyboard), Krister Palmquist (guitar), Hans Backenroth (bass), Joakim Ekberg (drums), Jan Allan (trumpet)

rec. at OAL Studio, Sollentuna, Sweden, 16-17 January, 2012. [55:29]


Just as there is so much classical music that one inevitably never comes across so the same situation pertains in jazz so I had never heard of the inspiration behind this disc, the baritone saxophonist Lars Gullin. Iíll go further and say that there is a huge corpus of jazz that rarely sees the light of day outside its own country if that country is not the USA and we are all the losers because of it. Therefore I consider myself fortunate to have been able to have had the opportunity of reviewing several discs recently that involve Nordic jazz, particularly Finnish. The present disc is from the Swedish label Prophone and features Swedish saxophonist ďJonasĒ Jonasson. His musical journey must be often repeated in that he wasnít able to make a living playing the jazz he loved, having, instead, to work as a dance-band musician until the beginning of the 1990s when he decided to go for broke and play jazz at every opportunity and it has finally paid off and he can at last do what he was clearly meant to do. His name was also unknown to me and this disc has been a revelation as he is a superb saxophonist and Lars Gullin was obviously a brilliantly gifted composer for his chosen instrument. The first number gets everything off to a cracking start, setting the bar for the whole disc. Jonasí baritone sax immediately paints a warming glow over everything and makes you smile and Krister Palmquistís guitar compliments it perfectly as does ÷hmanís piano, with bassist Backenroth and drummer Joakim Ekberg creating a great backing. Itís true is a lovely relaxed ballad as is Toka voka oka boka while The Waltz is exactly what it says on the tin, and here the quintet is joined by trumpeter Jan Allan. Merlin has pianist ÷hman alternating between his piano and his keyboard set to organ mode which I took was to help create the air of mystery evoked by the name of King Arthurís eminence grise. In any event it was very effective.Lars meets Jeff is a great swinging tune with each musician taking a short solo and I especially enjoyed the piano solo from ÷hman. Late summer is a lovely lilting tune with another outing for ÷hmanís organ mode and beautiful playing from Jonas. Bugs has a driving beat that keeps the feet tapping in a real evocation of the Ď50s while Late date is a laid back little audio oasis. Dyningar is a little tune in waltz time and I have seen is a slow and dreamy one beautifully played by all 5 principals. Peter of April, the last of Gullinís tunes is a fitting end to a survey of this composerís work with the quintet joined once again by the trumpet of Jay Allan and some nice solos from Jonas, Allan, ÷hman, Palmquist and Backenroth with Ekbergís drums anchoring things in the background. There is a bonus track in the shape of an Eddie Gomez number, Forever with no explanation for its presence, but itís a lovely tune with ÷hmanís organ sound again replacing the piano and it fades out to a rather abrupt end with Jonas, this time on tenor sax. What is clear from this disc and the others Iíve reviewed from Nordic countries is that jazz is very much alive and well in northern Europe and the warmth of the sound is a contrast to the temperature of the weather. I enjoyed the disc very much and shall try to find more of both Gullinís compositions and Jonasí playing. Thanks goodness Jonas threw caution to the winds at the start of the 90s and played what he loved best. He plays what is after all an unwieldy instrument that few people have truly mastered and I enjoyed his playing as much as I have ever enjoyed the baritone sax since I first heard the great Gerry Mulligan in the late 50s - I canít pay him any higher compliment than that!

Steve Arloff


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