Lars Jansson: Ballads (2002)
This is basically a trio album, but not completely; comprised of ballads by Swedish piano master Lars Jansson, but not completely. Songs like “The Tree,” “To the Mothers in Brazil” and “Something To Eat” may be ballads in the broadest sense of the word but their brisker tempos belie the image. And the trio becomes a quartet on occasion, then a sextet as horns are added on half a dozen numbers. “Something to Eat” is the only composition that’s not entirely Jansson’s, this one a group effort between Jansson, bassist Lars Danielsson and drummer Anders Kjellberg. Of course, one could note in another sense that the entire album represents a group effort, as everyone does what he can to help ensure its success. That success hinges as much on the fluency of Jansson’s pen as on his piano, and the songs he has written are bright and winsome if not particularly memorable. His playing, on the other hand, is superb, as is that of his trio and guests (bassist Christian Spering and drummer Morten Lund replace Danielsson and Kjellberg and trumpeter Paolo Fresu and reedman Johan Bergstrom are added on “Rojo y Negro” and “Soft Breeze”). Fresu’s muted horn states the melody on “Rojo y Negro” but it’s Paul McCandless’ English horn that is most conspicuous throughout, as it is also on “Soft Breeze.” Oboist Brynjar Hoff adds lovely splashes of color on the brief (48–second) “Ma” and polyrhythmic “Atlantico,” one of two selections on which Jansson plays synthesizer as well as piano (the other is “Freedom and Destiny 1”). The session is wonderfully recorded, playing time is exceedingly generous, and Jansson and his colleagues are in lock–step all the way. More beautiful than booming, but there’s nothing wrong with that, is there?
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Track Listing: Hope; The Tree; Why Was I Left Under the Sky; In Peaceful Sleep; To the Mothers in Brazil; More Human; Under the Bodhi Tree; In Memory of Leroy Lowe; Marionette; The Inner Room; Rojo y Negro; Something to Eat; Freedom and Destiny 1; Freedom and Destiny 2; Gruad Larose; Soft Breeze; Ma; Atlantico (71:58).
Personnel: Lars Jansson, composer, piano, synth; Lars Danielsson, Christian Spering (11, 16), bass; Anders Kjellberg, Morten Lund (11, 16), drums; Brynjar Hoff (17, 18), oboe; Paul McCandless (8, 11, 15, 16), English horn; Paolo Fresu (11, 16), trumpet; Johan Borgstr