I’d heard and been impressed by Swedish trumpeter Magnus Broo on big–band dates but hadn’t run across him in a small–group setting until now. Broo’s quartet has been together for about four years, and Levitation
is its second album; the first, Sudden Joy,
was recorded live in 1999. Even though it’s a quartet, Broo’s snappish phrases, Holgersson’s often hyperactive drums and the generally hurried tempos lend the album an explicit Jazz Messengers veneer. But even Blakey’s unrelenting boppers tossed in an occasional standard, whereas Broo’s group banks wholly on the compositional skills of its members with five themes by the leader, three by bassist Mattias Welin and two by pianist Torbjörn Gulz — a small but significant tactical error, as none of them has the charm or staying power of a song by Berlin, Porter, Rodgers, Loesser, Carmichael or . . . well, I’m sure you get the idea. That places a larger premium on improvisation and group interplay, which are for the most part effective but some distance away from memorable. Lars Westin writes in the liner notes that Broo is “a mature trumpeter with a distinctive style of his own,” and we won’t argue the point. The question is whether that “style of his own” embodies enough substance to raise him above the ordinary. There are times when it does, others when it doesn’t. In other words, Broo seems to be on the right track but hasn’t quite reached his destination. There’s an abundance of technique weakened by a tendency to dwell on it in lieu of freshness or warmth. But as that’s true of many trumpeters (and other musicians) these days, we can’t complain too loudly. Broo is stronger at slower tempos, where he has a chance to fasten his heart to his fingers. Gulz is a strong soloist and an able accompanist, and his two compositions (“Next Door,” “Touching Man”) are as agreeable as anything on the album. Welin and Holgersson keep satisfactory time but Holgersson, as we said, can be a touch unruly, especially on the faster numbers. On the other hand, he does some nice work on tom toms (“Touching Man”), with brushes (“Ladies and Labyrinths,” “Ballad of the Forgotten”) and elsewhere, so the over–all grade is pretty good. Same for the quartet and album as a whole: brief flashes of brilliance but not enough to separate it from the masses at a time when there seem to be more new discs flying off assembly lines than there are Jazz enthusiasts to find and appraise them.
Contact: Dragon Records, P.O. Box 4068, SE–102, 62 Stockholm, Sweden. Web site, www.dragonrecords.se; e–mail firstname.lastname@example.org