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This is billed as being as close as you can get to a follow-up to the classic 1976 Swedish session, Jazz at the Pawnshop (Proprius). It was recorded in 1995 by the same sound engineer, Gert Palmcrantz, and with two of the original participants, Arne Domnerus and Lars Erstrand. Sadly, times have changed. The cheerful mayhem of the pawnshop, Stampen, in Stockholm's old town is no more, replaced here by the antiseptic atmosphere of Club Doppingen in the university city of Uppsala, forty-three miles north of the capital. Plus Domnerus and Erstrand are now elder statesmen of their art, playing with a new generation of musicians rather than with their equals, as was the case in 1976.
It was the interaction between the musicians, the audience and time and place that made the Pawnshop sessions a triumph, and interaction is what is missing here. Sadly too, what worked with such spectacular success for Palmcrantz on that first session fails him this time around. Audibly, the mike setup leaves Erstrand's vibes and Jan Lundgren's piano sadly low in the ensemble mix. The principal casualty is Erstrand's beautifully subtle playing on Duke Ellington's "Prelude to a Kiss."
Their young accompanists are too in awe of Domnerus and Erstrand to truly lettheir hair down. Even on the solo number, Billy Strayhorn's "Lotus Blossom," Lundgren is remarkably restrained. He was to gain more confidence further down the line under the tutelage of Los Angeles producer Dick Bank. Here, there are just hints of what's in store.
The ballads work better, with Domnerus at his lush and lyrical best on Quincy Jones' tribute to Sweden, "The Midnight Sun Will Never Set" and Eubie Blake's lilting "Memories of You," the latter played as a duo with Erstrand. But the up-tempo numbers fail to take off, in particular the opener, a ragged version of the old Lionel Hampton warhorse "Flying Home" and Gene Krupa's "Drum Boogie," on which percussionist Rasmus Kihlberg turns in a brave but ultimately academic performance. Swedes don't really do flamboyance.
However, while not another collector's item, Live is Life does record a notable coming together of the generations in Swedish jazz. In this spirit, Lundgren pays a moving and swinging homage to the past with his laconically titled composition "Harry Who?" It's a tribute to Harry Arnold who, as leader of the Swedish Radio Band in the 1950s, was responsible for bringing many great U.S. musicians to Sweden, thus kick starting the local modern jazz scene. This would eventually achieve its finest hour in Jazz at the Pawnshop.
Track Listing: Flying Home; Billy Boy; Take The A Train; Lush Life; Prelude To A Kiss; Things Ain't What They Used To Be; Dream Dancing; The Midnight Sun Will Never Set; Harry Who?; Lotus Blossom; Drum Boogie; Poor Butterfly; Memories Of You; Secret Love.
Personnel: Arne Domnerus: alto saxophone, clarinet; Lars Erstrand: vibes; Jan Lundgren: piano; Hans Backenroth: bass; Rasmus Kihlberg: drums.