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Artistry Jazz Group: Live For The First Time

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Artistry Jazz Group

Live For The First Time

Volenza

2012

This DVD records a big day in the small world of Scandinavian jazz: after two first class studio albums, Artistry Jazz Group performing live for the first time. And it does so in Södra Teatern, Stockholm's oldest theater, built in 1859 on the heights of Mosebacke where, exactly 20 years later, August Strindberg would set his classic novel The Red Room.

The theater's current program is by and large musical, boasting "holistic experiences from all corners of the world." Jan Lundgren (piano), Jacob Fischer (guitar), Hans Backenroth (bass), Johan Löcrantz Ramsay (drums) and vocalist Vivian Buczek must have felt some trepidation as the curtain went up.

The 14 numbers they played were taken from their Volenza albums, We Like Previn—A Jazz Tribute to André Previn (2009) and Too Darn Hot—Together With Cole Porter (2010), both well received locally.

With just one camera focused the whole time on the band, it's hard to tell how they went down. Indeed, the DVD conveys very little sense of occasion at all, with visual proceedings becoming static and predictable after the first few numbers.

This is a shame because the music is extremely good with some fine interplay, particularly between Lundgren and Fischer. Backenroth's work at the difficult end of his instrument is also really quite remarkable, especially on Lundgren's excellent arrangement of "Coco," which Previn wrote for the 1969 Broadway musical of the same name, based on the life of French couturier "Coco" Chanel.

Buczek, so good on record, is a bit of a disappointment live. She's at her best on "Like Young," managing to inject a new vitality into lyrics that make reference to Kerouac, angry young men and squares.

But she's simply not up to getting across the tongue-in-cheek sensuality of the opening number, "Too Darn Hot," or the closer, "It's All Right With Me." And when it comes to Previn's "You're Gonna Hear From Me," it's difficult to believe her as she sings such "knock 'em dead" lyrics as I'm staking my claim, Remember my name while ending with a shy "Tack så mycket" (Swedish for "thank you very much") and an awkward "little girl" curtsey.

For the viewer, it's Fischer to the rescue. Lean and rangy, the Dane displays a laconic fluency on his Gibson and openly registers his delight and—on one occasion—even apparent displeasure with Lundgren's work on piano, a young, gunslinging Clint Eastwood facing down the leader's more cultivated impression of Peter O'Toole.

Judging from the applause, the number that went over best was Porter's "You Do Something To Me," and Löfcrantz Ramsay's breaks on "From This Moment On" also met with approval. So, an holistic experience? Well, as Fats Waller used to say, "One never knows, do one?"

After playing this gig, Artistry Jazz Group recorded yet another tribute album. This one, a homage to a wide variety of jazz composers, was titled simply Tribute! (Volenza, 2012). Excellent though it was, it must now—surely?—be time for a change of direction.

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