Jonas Kullhammar has a cool name. Its implications in English also make it somewhat appropriate sounding: this young sax virtuoso has a big sound, like a cool hammer. The new CD from his excellent quartet also looks goofily cool, with a youthful-looking painting that makes Kullhammar out to be far more gangly than he actually looks to be in photos. Then there’s the title, with its jokey frankness. But the music contained herein is no kids’ stuff.
Europeans, as I understand it, are less concerned with the question, which is absurdly divisive here, of what should and shouldn’t be called jazz. Plays Loud for the People is, for the most part, mature mainstream jazz. Its feet are firmly planted in the firmament of the modern jazz, bop and post bop continuum, yet—alert the media!—it’s fun to listen to. A lot of the new jazz you hear, good or bad, suffers from a claustrophobia, a self-conscious fear of breaking any sacred jazz rules or making too much of a ruckus. Kullhammar and crew color inside the lines mainly, but they do so with no undue reverence for orthodoxy.
The disc is carefully ordered, starting with the hard driving “Snake City East,” and alternating slow and fast tunes to track five (the Gene Ammons-esque rock-cha-cha, and most fun of all, “Bebopalulia”). Track six, “Behind Delight,” another burner, breaks that pattern, and pianist Torbjörn Gulz (this is surely the only jazz combo with two Torbjörns, including bassist Zetterberg) mostly reveals a strong McCoy Tyner influence here, as in “Snake City East.” He certainly could have picked a worse model. Kullhammar’s tone is as voluminous, like Sonny Rollins’, though he still has some distance to go to reach that level of mastery and personal style. The bass is mixed on the heavy side, and the drums are not overshadowed, still this quartet plays not so much loud as big.
The tunes, all penned by Kullhammar and Gulz, save a lone ballad by the other Torbjörn, range from twisting modern bop to heavy groove. This is an entertaining debut for a promising quartet. Its good taste is lightened up by good humor, and its liveliness makes it seem, well, alive.
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This review originally appeared in AllAboutJazz-New York .
Personnel: Per Johansson: Alto Sax;
Jonas Kullhammar: Tenor Sax;
Torbjorn Zetterberg: Bass;