As the AAJ column Nordic Sounds
attests, there is a lot of fine jazz coming out of Scandinavia as of late. One group that certainly deserves an audience beyond the borders of Scandinavia is the Martin Sjostedt Band, which hails from Sweden. Led by the steel-fingered young bassist Martin Sjostedt, the band’s new release Mondeo
puts forth an engaging set of compositions that are rich in emotional texture.
Though Sjostedt’s name is on the marquee and his wood-imbued tones provide the skeletal structure for the songs on Mondeo, the driving force behind many of these compositions is a passionate tenor sax and flute player named Magnus Lindgren. Lindgren’s strengths are a breathy lyricism and the ability to squeeze off terse emotional phrases. His talents are immediately apparent on the title track where the modulated intensity of his phrasing provides rich counterpoint to the song’s changing harmonics. He really glides on winning tracks like “Taxi” and his quicksilver improvising on flute on “Take The X Train” is a real treat.
Sjostedt is a very generous bandleader and he has given his bandmates ample opportunities to shine in both the playing and songwriting arenas. Compositionally, the descending harmonic progressions of Sjostedt’s “Mondeo” are the album’s high point, while pianist Jonas Ostholm’s quirky, minor themed “Take The X Train” comes in a close second.
The production values are sparkling and the pristine atmosphere is only enhanced by the precise playing of Sjostedt’s band. Sjostedt plucks thick tones and offers up strong melodic statements on songs like “Lined Up With A Groove” and “To Wisdom The Prize," alto saxophonist Fredrik Kronkvist nearly steals the show from Lindgren with his blistering choruses on the stop-time blues “The Chant” and the rhythmic accents of drummer Daniel Fredricksson are a consistent pleasure on most every track. Ostholm’s playing, though, is a few steps behind the rest of the band. While he displays a quick right hand and interesting ideas on “Taxi,” his phrasing is hesitant and meandering on “Blues But Not” and his subduable playing on "Take The X Train" comes close to bringing the song to a complete halt.
Overall, though, Mondeo has more than its share of enriching moments. It’s a fine example of the mainstream jazz coming out of Sweden and is easily recommended on the strength of Magnus Lindgren’s exquisitely controlled lyricism.
Personnel: Martin Sjostedt: bass;
Magnus Lindgren: tenor saxophone, flute;
Jonas Ostholm: piano;
Daniel Fredriksson: drums;
Fredrik Kronkvist: alto saxophone.