Artwork: Two of a Kind (2011)
Two of a Kind seeks to embody in musical terms the best of two possible worlds: those of Sweden and the United States. Artwork is a sextet composed of three Swedes (Jan Allan, Hans Backenroth, Johan Lofcrantz Ramsay), two Americans (Jack Wilkins, Tamara Danielsson) and a Swedish expatriate (Per Danielsson). The music it has chosen is a seductive bilingual blend, comprising as it does five compositions by tenor saxophonist Wilkins, four by the acclaimed Swedish bassist Georg Riedel (who was actually born in Czechoslovakia), jazz standards by Joe Henderson ("The Kicker") and Mal Waldron ("Soul Eyes"), Victor Young's "Beautiful Love," the classic film theme "Singin' in the Rain," and Jimmy Webb's popular folk song, "Wichita Lineman." Aside from Riedel's compositions, Wilkins arranged everything save "Beautiful Love" (Per Danielsson) and "Wichita Lineman" (Tamara Danielsson).
Allan, a veteran trumpeter whose extensive resume abounds with the names of world-class jazz artists from Europe and America, shares the front line with Wilkins and alto saxophonist Tamara Danielsson. Originally from Seattle, WA, she is married to Per Danielsson, a Swede who came to the U.S. in 1984 to study at the University of North Texas and who is now a professor of jazz piano at the University of Central Florida. Completing the rhythm section are bassist Backenroth, from Karlstad, and drummer Ramsay, a professor at the Royal College of Music in his hometown, Stockholm.
Per Danielsson must have learned his lessons well, as his solos are models of elegance and proficiency. Allan and Wilkins keep pace with impressive statements of their own, while Tamara Danielsson, who solos less often (but is out front all the way on "Wichita Lineman"), makes the most of every opportunity. Good as they are, however, the effervescent charts almost steal the show. Wilkins' themes, which include tributes to Art Blakey ("Artwork") and Wayne Shorter ("Shorter Path"), are bright and engaging, as are those by Riedel, especially the lyrical "Absolution" and sprightly "Tumba Samba." Allan, Wilkins and Per Danielsson master them (and every other tune) as to the manor born, while Backenroth and Ramsay provide impeccable support, making for a session of high-quality jazz performed by blue-chip musicians.
Track Listing: Artwork; Absolution; Singin' in the Rain; Beautiful Love; Sommar Adjo; Pojke I Dimma; Walt in the Trap; Tumba Samba; The Kicker; Soul Eyes; Cape Waltz; Shorter Path; Wichita Lineman; Boneyard.
Personnel: Jan Allan: trumpet; Jack Wilkins: tenor sax; Tamara Danielsson: alto sax; Per Danielsson: piano; Hans Beckenroth: bass; Johan L. Ramsey: drums.
Record Label: J.A.M. Produktion