Lars Gullin, as some of you may know, played baritone sax. More than that, the legendary Swede was, in this writer’s opinion, one of the greatest baritone saxophonists who ever lived. Difficult as it is to comprehend a tribute to Gullin with no baritone in sight, we must accept this album for what it is — a warmhearted acknowledgment of his prodigious talents as a writer, performed with grace and charm by a quartet of seasoned musicians, three of whom performed with Gullin and were able to observe first–hand his consummate artistry. Once that is done, the enjoyment begins. All of the songs on Inside Pictures were written by Gullin, and they show clearly what an uncommonly talented composer he was. Even though one has to imagine Lars himself playing as only he could, there’s no lack of electricity on this album, as the music therein is in exceedingly capable hands. Tenor saxophonist Bernt Rosengren, drummer Fredrik Norén and pianist Lars Sjösten were members of Gullin’s last ensembles (Lars died in May 1976, age forty–eight) while bassist Palle Danielsson replaces the late Björn Aike who performed regularly with Gullin for more than fifteen years. Whereas Lars sounded like no one else (his son Peter, for whom “Peter of April” was most likely written, comes closest), Rosengren reminds one of a number of well–known tenors including Hank Mobley, Jimmy Heath, James Moody, Joe Henderson, Harold Land, Frank Foster and other bop–based improvisers. The tone and technique are superb, and Rosengren is never at a loss for an appropriate phrase, nor is Sjösten who is always in the groove whether comping or soloing. They mesh well with Norén and Danielsson on these nineteen compositions by Gullin, the oldest of which, “Merlin” and “Silhouette,” date from 1952, while “The Aching Heart of an Oak” and “Toka Voka Boka Oka” are the last he ever wrote. So Lars isn’t here; his spirit surely is, embodied in warm, sensitive readings of his music that would have made him smile with pleasure. A splendid album by any measure. If you’d like to hear the master himself at work, check out the four–volume anthology on Dragon Records covering the years 1955–60. It’s a good place to start.
Contact: STIM / Svensk Musik (Swedish Music Center), Box 27327, SE–102 54, Stockholm, Sweden. Phone +46 8 783 88 00. E–mail firstname.lastname@example.org; web site, www.mic.stim.se
Track Listing: Without a Chance; Inside Pictures; Merlin; Fedja; Baritonome; Colored Pastel; Blue Mail; Toka Voka Oka Boka; The Aching Heart of an Oak; Igloo; Silhouette; I Min Smala S
Personnel: Bernt Rosengren, tenor saxophone; Fredrik Nor