Kurt J: Make a Bet (2002)
One never knows quite what to expect when called upon to review discs by “unknown” musicians from overseas. Will the music be straight–ahead and accessible or free–form and impenetrable? Happily, Swedish multi–instrumentalist Kurt Järnberg’s new album lands squarely in the former camp. What’s more, it’s a delight to hear as, thanks to overdubbing, Järnberg “accompanies” himself on various instruments — trumpet, flugel, euphonium, and valve and slide trombone. Equally pleasing are the sunny compositions and arrangements by Järnberg (five), pianist Thomas Jutterström (three) and Roland Keijser (one). To keep matters even more interesting, Järnberg modifies the instrumentation, sometimes using the full arsenal, as on “Blue Tiger” and “Blue Fox,” at other times highlighting one or more components — trombone on “Blue Angel” and “To Bill (Harris),” valve trombone on “Like a Dream,” flugel against trombone choir on “To Chet (Baker),” which he wrote and Jutterström arranged. The euphonium, heard on three selections, is more than decorative; Järnberg is an able soloist on every instrument including that one, as he shows on “Twin Bossa” and “Make a Bet.” As a trombonist, Järnberg has performed with (and no doubt been influenced by) such renowned artists as Kai Winding and Bill Russo, but to these ears he sounds more like Slide Hampton, Phil Wilson, Jiggs Whigham or the late Ashley Alexander, who was a great valve trombonist but better known as an educator. He plays trumpet (and quite well) only on “Blue Fox,” flugel (two, actually) on “Blue Tiger” and Keijser’s “In the Same Boat,” and swings one flugel on the breezy homage “To Chet.” Järnberg shows his mastery of the trombone on “Blue Angel” and “To Bill,“ the valve trombone on “Make a Bet” and “Like a Dream” (on which he could be mistaken for such contemporary pace–setters as Rob McConnell or Bob Brookmeyer.). Jutterström is also multi–tracked on “Dream,” soloing on piano while backing Järnberg and himself on organ. He’s on piano most of the way but plays organ again on “Make a Bet” and provides a synthesized backdrop on the lovely ballad “Blue Angel” (one of his three azure–shaded compositions; the others are “Blue Tiger” and “Blue Fox”). While Järnberg and Jutterström spread their creative wings, bassist Leif Norberg and drummer Edward Mica are there to supply the rhythmic muscle, which they do in workmanlike fashion and without stepping on anyone’s toes. Next time we hear the name Kurt Järnberg we’ll know what to expect — and look forward to the pleasure of his company.
Contact: Four Leaf Clover Records, Box 1231, S–1722 24 Sundbyberg, Sweden (e–mail email@example.com; web site, www.flc.se).
Track Listing: Blue Tiger; Twin Bossa; To Chet (Baker); Blue Angel; Blue Fox; Make a Bet; In the Same Boat; To Bill (Harris); Like a Dream (52:38).
Personnel: Kurt J