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Saga: F (2004)

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Saga: F No stars How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Art Farmer made a great record with Jim Hall in the '60s entitled To Sweden With Love. If Färger, the debut album by the piano trio Saga, is any indication, Sweden is more than ready to return some of that love. By turns moody, joyous, exuberant, and somber, Saga plays jazz that mixes Scandinavian folk flavors, neoclassical influences, and free playing in an enticing way.

Pianist and composer Joakim Simonsson sets the tone with the introductory “Thank You,” playing minimalist chords reminiscent of John Cage’s early pieces, as bassist Pär-Ola Landin and drummer Daniel Olsson apply stuttering daubs to the canvas. With “My Old School” (no, not the Steely Dan number), things really get rolling. A poignant progression with gospel-blues touches (shades of Jarrett here) forms a loose structure through which Landin and Simonsson deftly weave countermelodies. Worth the price of admission alone, this tune’s seven-plus minutes pass by before you know it.

“Peace” is, paradoxically, the most raucous thing on the album: a jaunty piano riff that gives way to complete freedom. Because of the empathetic playing, however, this never grates; rather, it leads to several moments of delicious coalescence as motifs are picked up and explored by the group.

“Av Vemod” and “Av Längtan, Av Glädje” bring a somber, folk music tone to the fore, and both tunes are languorous and lovely in a suitably wintry way. Another dip into freer realms on “Sunday 14th” leads into the album’s cheeky closer, a jaunty bounce-along called (what else?) “Bye Bye (See You Tomorrow).” If Saga continue to produce jazz of such emotional depth, exhilarating freedom, and memorable melodicism as they do on Färger, they certainly will be seeing me and, I suspect, many of you, tomorrow.

Track Listing: Thank You; My Old School; Colours; Peace; Av Vemod; Av L

Personnel: Joakim Simonsson, piano; Daniel Olsson, drums; P

Style: Modern Jazz


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