I was familiar with Lars Samuelson as the driving force behind Four Leaf Clover Records but wasn’t aware that he was also a big–band leader until this reissue from 1975–81 arrived unannounced in the mail a couple of weeks ago. It was a pleasure to learn about this previously unknown aspect of Lars’s musical persona, as the orchestras he presided over on the two sessions documented here accommodated a number of Sweden’s most talented sidemen who had no trouble underwriting Samuelson’s swinging, straight–ahead point of view. The music on Het Sommar
is for the most part slightly off the beaten path but never strays far enough to pose any danger of becoming lost in a thicket. The first eight tracks, recorded in 1975, consist of original compositions by Samuelson and his fellow countrymen; the last two, taken from a concert date six years later, include Nat King Cole’s signature song, “Mona Lisa,” and Lester Young’s rocker for the Basie orchestra, “Tickle Toe.” One can sense from the hand–clapping introduction to Jan Johansson’s “Het Sommar” that these gentlemen are about swinging and having fun, and they seldom disappoint. While none of the names — except perhaps saxophonist Arne Domnérus — would be widely recognized in America, that’s unimportant, as all of them are world–class musicians and the orchestra is as sturdy and self–assured as one could desire. Domnérus, as befits his eminent stature, is featured on Georg Riedel’s “Meditation for Saxophone” and pianist Bengt Hallberg’s “Clarinet Swing,” and solos again (on clarinet) with guitarist Rune Gustafsson on Johansson’s “Hår kommer Pippi Långstrump” and (on alto) with trombonist Lars Olofsson on Hallberg’s driving arrangement of the traditional folk song “Visa Från Utanmyra.” Riedel also wrote the buoyant “Mambo Kom Loss” (whose intrepid soloists are pianist Kjell Öhman, baritone Erik Nilsson, trumpeter Jan Allan and tenor Ulf Andersson). Samuelson composed “My Kind of Blue” as an ensemble piece, and trumpeter Bertil Lövgren, who is featured on “Het Sommar,” solos again on his own composition, “Blues No. 3.” Allan and Öhman are the soloists on “Mona Lisa,” while tenors Hector Bingert and Tommy Koverhut share the honors on the late Rich Matteson’s crisp arrangement of “Tickle Toe.” Playing time is less than 47 minutes, but almost none of it is misspent. If you can find it, buy it.
Track listing: Het Sommar; Här Kommer Pippi Långstrump; Meditation for Saxophone; Clarinet Swing; Visa Från Utanmyra; Blues No. 3; Mambo Kom Loss; My Kind of Blues; Mona Lisa**; Tickle Toe** (46:46).