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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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KJELL ÖHMAN/
HANS BACKENROTH/
JOAKIM EKBERG

The Duke

Prophone Swedish Jazz PCD 123

 

 

1. Kelly's Blues
2. One For The Woofer
3. Stairway To The Stars
4. The Duke
5. Squatty Roo
6. Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?
7. When Summer Comes
8. The Best Things In Life Are Free
9. My Foolish Heart
10. Afternoon In Paris
11. Shanna

Kjell Öhman - Piano
Hans Backenroth - Bass
Joakim Ekberg - Drums

 

Kjell Öhman is a Swedish jazz pianist in the Oscar Peterson tradition, who is well-known and highly-regarded within his country, but little-known beyond its borders. His recently released album entitled The Duke is well worth a listen, as he is a savvy pianist with a crisp approach to the standard jazz songbook.

From the very first track of Peterson's own composition Kelly's Blues, Oscar's influence Is evident with Öhman exhibiting quicksilver runs and dancing arpeggios. There is another Peterson gem on the album and that is When Summer Comes which derives from his album A Royal Wedding Suite, written to celebrate the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Öhman delivers a thoughtful rendition of the tune which showcases his communicative suppleness.

While no new ground is broken by the trio, nevertheless they demonstrate a sympathetic and open-minded partnership, which is evident on the title track Dave Brubeck's The Duke with bassist Hans Backenroth especially forceful. The Duke's own Squatty Roo follows along in swinging fashion, in which the band builds the tune from its origins, with Backenroth again showing his strong tone and nimble fingering.

It should not be surprising that this trio boasts excellent musical credentials, as Sweden has had a jazz culture that goes back to the 1920s. The golden age for jazz in Sweden may have been in the 1950s, when such musicians as baritone sax man Lars Gullen, singer Alice Babs, and altoist Arne Domn‚rus gained international recognition. Additionally Sweden attracted many US expatriate jazz musicians, including drummer Joe Harris and trumpeter Benny Bailey. So when the trio launches into its swinging version of The Best Things In Life Are Free with rhythmic attack, or the little heard John Lewis ballad Afternoon In Paris that is perceptive and coherent, the Swedish jazz tradition continues.

This is a cheerful little earful of an album, by a trio that has a particular grasp of jazz convention.

Pierre Giroux



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