Anders Bergcrantz on Dragon Records
His music is solidly mainstream, which means only that the musical language used does not surprise the knowledgeable listener. That said though, Bergcrantz is completely secure, full of fire and communicates directly to the listener with an irresistible swing. His trumpet sound is tight and focused, with the brassy edges polished and given a high sheen, thus achieving an intense softness. Flugelhorn is used to soften the sound further when he so desires.
Bergcrantz's acknowledged influences are Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan and Woody Shaw and they can be easily heard. However, he is no throwback; he has much to say and pours himself entirely into the music to say it.
His latest release, About Time (Stunt Records/Sundance Music, 2007), has been well received, and so below are three of his earlier releases on Sweden's Dragon Records. One album missing is Live At Sweet Basil (Dragon, 1995), which has the same band as and was recorded immediately before In This Together below.
In This Together
Following immediately on the heels of a live recording at Sweet Basil in New York City, the Anders Bergcrantz Quartet (pianist Richie Beirach, bassist Ron McClure and drummer Adam Nussbaum) went into the Acoustic Recording Studio in New York City and laid down this album in two days. The album won Sweden's highest jazz recording award, "The Golden Record" for the year 1995, and it is easy to see why.
Beirach and McClure go back together to the early 1980s and the quartet Quest (which also included saxophonist Dave Liebman and drummer Billy Hart). Hence, they really know each other and make the sparks fly. Nussbaum is extremely versatile and in high demand, hence his huge discography. Bergcrantz is actually the youngest in the group and it is to his credit that he not only is accepted by, but also leads the great players.
The hot tunes written by Bergcrantz are the opener, "Wake Up" and the title tune, with the latter being a little darker and more mysterious. "Majoun" by Pete LaRoca is also a solid driving swinger with fine band interaction. Beirach is a wonderful player who is as interesting to listen to when he is accompanying as when he solos. In fact, the entire rhythm section sparkles behind Bergcrantz, with McClure and Nussbaum locked in tight as they drive the band.
There are four improvisations: three duets ("Emerald," "Sapphire" and "Ruby") with different personnel that are short and one quartet ("Axis") that is longer. The quality of this music makes one long for more in this vein and presents a refreshing change of pace.
In This Together is a terrific album and will get your blood moving.
The 'C' of the title stands for saxophonist John Coltrane, and the influence he had (and still has) on the members of the band, which is the same group as that on In This Together. The music on this "live" album (the tracks are taken from different gigs during a tour in Sweden in 1996, and thus is not a live recording as that is commonly understood) is quite vibrant and the band is in fine form.
After a free-from solo intro by Bergcrantz, the title track bursts out of the speakers. After a blazing thematic declamation by Bergcrantz, Beirach channels McCoy Tyner and his open chordal sound and takes the energy to an incredible peak, aided by the dynamic propulsion of McClure and Nussbaum. Bergcrantz re-enters to cheers from the audience and the tension in his solo is almost too much to bear, and then Nussbaum sends it still higher. While the allusions to the classic Coltrane Quartet sound are clear, the music is not retro but a vibrant homagea killer track.
Following this cathartic release is a beautiful, almost twelve-minute version of "Stella By Starlight." Beirach shows his classical training in a magnificent intro with echoes of Chopin and other Romantics. Bergcrantz then enters, still without bass or drums, playing the melody with such emotion that he seems to be actually speaking through his horn.
When the rhythm section enters, a very cool swing is set up and Bergcrantz plays a perfect solo that breathes and is highly emotional. The band is expert at shifting in and out of double time and it gives goosebumps.
The record closes with saxophonist Wayne Shorter's "Footprints," which is an intense tune in any case, and here is taken up a notch, followed by a solo Bergcrantz "Postlude."
This quartet is a terrific band and the whole is much more than the sum of the parts. Bergcrantz is an articulate, thoughtful and very emotional player, who makes you want to listen.
Twenty-Four Hours has much more pure composition than the previous two releases, starting and ending with two commissioned suites "Ett Dygn (Twenty-Four Hours)" and "Thank You And Farewell" respectively.
The former is a musical response to "the moods and atmospheres one can experience in the duration of twenty-four hours." After an "Intro" that demonstrates Bergcrantz's control of instrumental timbre as he mixes trumpets and trombones, and "Gryning (Dawn)," which starts with a recorded blackbird and moves through a section of carefully mixed brass, "Morgon (Morning)" moves into standard quartet mode (augmented at times by the other brass) with Bergcrantz (and pianist Jacob Christoffersen) swinging with ease. The rest is effortless arranging and playing from the septet.
The latter suite uses nine other musicians, and has three parts in three different styles. "Part One," the shortest, sounds almost classical. "Part Two," after an opening drum intro, turns into a very cool, low flame burner with great playing from Bergcrantz and subtle arrangements for the group behind him while "Part Three" ventures into different territory with synthesizer and funkier rhythms.
In between are two pieces written by Bergcrantz ("The Inspired Vulture" and "Rebecca") interleaved with two written by his father Sven ("Den Lille Malcom/Little Malcolm)" and "Den Hoppande Emil (Jumping Emil)"), who also plays piano and Fender Rhodes. The younger Bergcrantz's tunes are for straight-ahead quintet, the former with trombone and the latter with saxophone. "Rebecca" is particularly attractive.
The elder Bergcrantz's tunes are both intriguing. The former begins with a piano introduction and melodic declamation that shows his piano touch and musical sensitivity, but then changes to a funky version with the Fender Rhodes which shows his flexibility. The latter has an attractive lilt to it and has an underlying folk quality.
While lower in sheer energy than In This Together and C, Twenty-Four Hours contains much interesting music and is a joy to listen to.
Tracks and Personnel
In This Together
Tracks: Wake Up; Other Bells; Emerald; Majoun; Hope; Aurora; Sapphire; McJolt; Ruby; In This Together; Axis; Flammable.
Personnel: Anders Bergcrantz: trumpet, flugelhorn; Richie Beirach: piano; Ron McClure: bass; Adam Nussbaum: drums.
Tracks: Prelude; C; Stella By Starlight; Renfield; Only; I Won Her Heart; Footprints; Postlude.
Personnel: Anders Bergcrantz: cornet, flugelhorn; Richie Beirach: piano; Ron McClure: bass; Adam Nussbaum: drums.
Tracks: Ett Dygn (Twenty-Four Hours): Intro, Gryning (Dawn), Morgon (Morning); Dagtid (Daytime), Sen eftermiddag; Kväll (Late Afternoon; Evening), Natt (Night); The Inspired Vulture; Den Lille Malcolm (Little Malcolm); Rebecca; Den Happande Emil (Jumping Emil); Thank You And Farewell: Part One, Part Two, Part Three.
Personnel: Roy Wall: trumpet(1-6); Anders Gustaffson: trumpet (1-6); Vincent Nilsson: trombone, baritone horn (1-6, 7, 11-13); Jacob Christoffersen: piano, synthesizer, Fender Rhodes (1-6, 7, 9, 11-13); Hans Andersson: bass; Lennart Gruvstedt: drums; Sven Bergcrantz: piano, Fender Rhodes (8, 10); Fredrik Carlquist: tenor saxophone, clarinet (9, 11-13); Terje Thiwäng: flute (11-13); Helge Albin: alto saxophone (11-13); Inge Petersson: clarinet, tenor saxophone (11-13); Cennet Jönsson: tenor, soprano saxophone, EWI, bass clarinet (11-13).