"Lone Wolf" Finds Plenty to Chew On
Vol. 1 opens in a dynamic groove with Don Menza's "Tonawanda Fats," featuring trombonist Per Haglind and soprano saxophonist Patrik Engelbert, then moves on to trumpeter Joachim Tromark's enchanting "Waltz for Bobby," written for American trumpet maestro Bobby Shew who has performed more than once with Sandviken including its thirtieth anniversary concert. The two albums, in fact, have Shew in common, as Tromark, who is front and center with guitarist Goran Berencreutz on "Waltz," solos again on Vol. 2 on Shew's serenade, "Blue." A trio of guest artists enlivens Vol. 1: the superb tenor saxophonist Fredrik Nordstrom, showcased on his ballad, "Falling," as well as on another waltz, "Gammelfarfars Mormorsvals," written by fellow guest Patrik Skogh (who solos adroitly on trumpet), and vocalist Linda Pettersson-Bratt, splendid on Mikael Raberg's brisk arrangement of Irving Berlin's "How Deep Is the Ocean." Along the way, the band interposes a pair of Pat Metheny's eloquent compositions, "It's Just Talk" and "Every Summer Night," both smartly arranged by Bob Curnow. "Talk" features pianist Arnold Rodriguez and tenor Patric Lundstedt, "Summer Night" Berencreutz and Tromark (on flugel, as he is on Tom Kubis' even-tempered "Hospital Blues"). Completing the program are the standards "Don't Go to Strangers" (Lundstedt, tenor) and "The Way You Look Tonight" (Berencreutz, alto Adam Dahlberg).
The classically trained Andersson, a star in Sweden for more than three decades, is the main man on Vol. 2, soloing on all but one number ("Blue"). He settles comfortably into the swing milieu, awakening fond memories of Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman and Sweden's other grand master of the clarinet, the late Putte Wickman, on such Swing Era favorites as "Let's Dance," "Stealin' Apples," Lester Young's "Tickle Toe" and Shaw's eerie theme, "Nightmare." Also on the menu are Bengt Hallberg's "Clarinet Swing," Eddie Sauter's "The Maid with the Flaccid Air," Toots Thielemans' lyrical "Bluesette," Gordon Jenkins' mournful "Goodbye" and the standards "Like Someone in Love" and "S'wonderful." Even though Andersson takes most of the solos, there's enough space left for brief but effective statements by Tromark, Lundstedt, Engelbert, Haglind, pianist Thomas Jutterstrom, bassist Rasmus Diamant and drummer Rolf Andersson.
If your taste leans more to contemporary themes, Vol. 1 may suit you to a T. If, on the other hand, swing is your thing, Vol. 2 should set your toes to tapping and put a lasting smile on your face. Either way, you can't go wrong with the Sandviken Big Band, among the best in any clime or on any continent.
Millikin University Jazz Band
First Step Records
In spite of gloomy manifestos forecasting its imminent demise, jazz continues to play a vibrant and important role in colleges and universities across the country, even relatively small liberal arts institutions such as Millikin University, ensconced in rural Macon County southwest of Chicago. Not only does Millikin have a music department with more than three hundred students, it has a jazz band, directed by Randall Reyman, that has earned plaudits at a number of festivals and recorded four albums, the most recent of which is Vera Cruz. The school's recording studio and School of Music Center were renovated in 1998-2000 thanks in part to an $8 million grant from C.D. "Perk" Perkinson, for whom it is named and to whom the album is dedicated, and his wife, Pat.
Vera Cruz makes an auspicious start thanks to a charming guitar / bass intro to Miles Davis' "Seven Steps to Heaven," a tasteful chart by Emil Richards that features vibraphonist Simon Nicholson and drummer Sean McDonald. Clarinetist John Gorecki is pleasingly showcased on Mark Taylor's "Love Beams," alto Adam Blakey is impressive on Quincy Jones' seductive "Quintessence," guitarist Jacob Widenhofer likewise on Pat Metheny's "Another Life," arranged for large ensemble by Bob Curnow. Another highlight is Don Schamber's buoyant arrangement of the Gershwin brothers' "Soon," on which Widenhofer, Nicholson and tenor Ethan Hayward score bonus points. Reyman arranged Dave Holland's rhythmic "Prime Directive," whose agile soloists are Blakey and trumpeter Kyle Nicholson. Vocalist Alexandra Manfredo is heard from twice, on the title song and Bill Holman's high-powered arrangement of the standard "Deed I Do." Although she's passable, one has to do more than sing on key to make a lasting impression.