the brilliant young pianist Jan Lundgren takes a break from the usual jazz and popular standards to survey and accentuate the music of his native Sweden, and what one notices almost immediately is that there is no perceptible decline in quality, melodically, rhythmically or harmonically. In other words, these are quite lovely songs; unfamiliar, of course, but no less charming because of it.
The picturesque program consists of eleven traditional themes (four comprising a medley), two new works by Lundgren and one each by Evert Taube and C.M. Bellman. Is it jazz? Most assuredly, even though the genre’s basic ingredient, improvisation, plays a subordinate role as Lundgren, bassist Mattias Svensson and drummer Morten Lund bend their energy toward emphasizing the inherent suppleness and beauty of the music. Lundgren’s songs, “Blekinge” and “Småland,” named for Swedish provinces, are especially enchanting, the first a graceful ballad, the second a toe-tapping pirouette on which the trio is inseparable.
Equally seductive are the traditional Swedish folk dance “Slångpolska Efter Byss-kalle,” the well-grooved Dalecarlian ballad “Dalvisa,” the elegant “Allt Under Himmelens Fåste” (Under the Vault of Heaven), Taube’s fast-paced “Inbjudan Till Bohuslän” (Welcome to Bohuslän), Bellman’s sensuous “Fjäriln Vingad Syns På Haga” (Butterflies Sailing Over Haga’s Meadows) or the bucolic finale, “Jämtländsk Kärleksmelodi“ (complete with earthy barnyard-style sound effects). In fact, there is nothing on offer that is less than pleasing, and that includes Lundgren’s lucid and perceptive interpretations.
Even though the songs on Landscapes depict another land and culture, you may swear you’ve heard some of them before. What’s more, you’ll want to hear them again, especially as performed by Messrs. Lundgren, Svensson and Lund.
Personnel: Jan Lundgren, piano; Mattias Svensson, bass; Morten Lund, drums.