Although trombonist Nils Landgren has released several albums in his native Sweden since the mid 80s, Paint It Blue appears to be his first album available in the United States. Landgren, who calls his sextet the Funk Unit, has subtitled Paint It Blue "A Tribute to Cannonball Adderley" and, as such, has produced something that successfully brings some of Adderley's funk right into the 90s.
The most obvious choices for Adderley covers are this release's best tunes: "Walk Tall," "Why Am I Treated So Bad" and "Mercy Mercy Mercy." They rock hard in a contemporary groove without losing the integrity of their original identity. Landgren fares well on the not-so-obvious choices too: Nat's "Inside Straight" (1973) and Cannon's "Primitivo" (1962). Paint It Blue 's best track, though, is the heavy-duty dose of Adderley-like funk, "You Dig," co-written by Landgren and two Unit members. "You Dig," which features the immediately identifiable tenor of Michael Brecker and the always-welcome trapfunk of Bernard Purdie, is Landgren doing what he does best letting his brassy bone slide with slick confidence all over the funk terrain.
Much of this record often recalls J.J. Johnson's underrated soundtrack music of the 1970s. Some of the tunes also feature brief, mercifully unobtrusive rap / vocals by Unit member Magnum Coltrane Price. The rest of Paint It Blue , while it has seemingly little more than a title connecting it to Cannonball's music, is notable for not being bone-heavy at all. That's due to Landgren's subtle talents and the utilization of the Unit as a group entity with equally talented players getting front-line attention.
Despite an unfortunate overabundance of slow jams (which, reveals the limits of Landgren's sparkle and wit, unlike Cannonball's), Paint It Blue , does have enough solid jazz-funk to keep it going. For another approach to Cannonball Adderley's inspiration, interested listeners may also want to check out the Manhattan Project's quite good, recently-released non-funk disc, We Remember Cannon , on Evidence.