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Sven Ake Johansson: Jazzbox

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Sven Ake Johansson: Sven Ake Johansson: Jazzbox How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Funny how listening to the five-CD Jazzbox by free jazz drummer Sven Ake Johansson may remind you of the British punk rock band The Clash's first hit single "Train In Vain" (1980). Like Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, Johansson's career has been one that has worked to challenge the language of American music. In The Clash's case, it was American pop and disco. For Johansson and his European colleagues (Peter Brotzmann
Peter Brotzmann
Peter Brotzmann
b.1941
reeds
, Manfred Schoof, Peter Kowald
Peter Kowald
Peter Kowald
1944 - 2002
bass, acoustic
, and Alexander von Schlippenbach) it was the 1960's New Thing of Albert Ayler
Albert Ayler
Albert Ayler
1936 - 1970
sax, tenor
, John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
and Eric Dolphy
Eric Dolphy
Eric Dolphy
1928 - 1964
reeds
.

In the middle of recording The Clash's seminal London Calling (CBS, 1979), the rebellious punk band went about making an American-styled R&B single. "Train In Vain" sounded more American, then American singles as it shot up to number one in the States. Johansson's career has tracked the European free scene since his earliest recordings with Brotzmann—Machine Gun (FMP, 1968), Schlippenbach's Globe Unity Orchestra, Per Henrik Wallin and in his own projects. Although he branched out into musical theatre, painting and design, he has kept pace with European jazz collaborating with Andrea Neumann, Axel Dorner
Axel Dorner
Axel Dorner
b.1964
trumpet
, Sten Sandell, Raymond Strid
Raymond Strid
Raymond Strid
b.1956
drums
, and Rudi Mahall.

With Jazzbox he proffers American jazz, circa 1955, in a more compelling presentation than, well, American jazz musicians.

Heard on Vol. I and Vol. II, his Cool Quartett is easily mistaken for a Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
session. Johansson's command to maintain the melody is paramount. The quartet is fronted by trumpeter Axel Dörner, known as a minimalist improviser, who has a knack for interpreting the music of Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
1917 - 1982
piano
, as he does in the band Die Enttäuschung, and pianist Zoran Terzic. Covering the Great American Songbook, the four, including bassist Jan Roder play George Gershwin
George Gershwin
George Gershwin
1898 - 1937
composer/conductor
, Rodgers and Hart, Cole Porter
Cole Porter
Cole Porter
1891 - 1964
composer/conductor
, and Jerome Kern
Jerome Kern
Jerome Kern
1895 - 1945
arranger
. Knowing the pedigree of these players, you might expect the avant-garde, but the melody doesn't fall far from the tree. The cleverness here is the simple commitment to the original song. The quartet's less is obviously more. Even the less than familiar tracks penned by Dörner (there are five) are strikingly spare and beautiful.

The quartet stretches to the Cool Sextett with the inclusion of saxophonists Tobias Delius and Henrik Waldsdorff on three tracks recorded live in 2009. In this setting the music expands and so does the presentation. Delias honks a bit, intertwining his horn with Waldsdorff as the music migrates from the studio to the club. Johansson revisits vocals on "Night In Tunisia" and "You've Changed" as he did on Hudson Riv (Grob, 2003) with his unique Swedish/German accent. His accent draws back the curtain for those mistaken into believing the music is just a reissue from the Prestige Records vaults.

The two strongest volumes might be Tune Up, a quartet with Delias, Roder, and Japanese-born, Berlin native pianist Aki Takase
Aki Takase
Aki Takase
b.1948
piano
and the trio Candy with Dörner and bassist Joe Williamson. Takase is a proper interpreter of Monk and Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
. Her comping behind the saxophonist's blabbing horn provides a running commentary until she takes an aside of a solo on "Tangerine." The music here seems rooted in the antics of the Amsterdam's New Dutch Swing and perhaps that is the influence of Delias.

In Trio, the strength of Johansson's vision is amplified. With brushes on his drum pads, he spurs Dörner to the clearest expression of melody and the brightest music. Their double- time take on "The Way You Look Tonight" and the Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
b.1930
saxophone
favorite "I'm An Old Cowhand" are as hip today as they were in 1957. The disc ends with "Stars Fell On Alabama," a song certain to stump nearly anyone taking a blindfold test. They will certainly identify the Americans Freddie Hubbard
Freddie Hubbard
Freddie Hubbard
1938 - 2008
trumpet
or maybe Tony Fruscella.


Cool Quartett Vol. I

Tracks: Star  Eyes; Foreground Behind; Whats; Every Time You Say Goodby; Undreground Above; My Heart Stood Still; Background Beneath; Embraceable You.

Personnel: Axel Dörner: trumpet; Zoran Terzic: piano; Jan Roder: bass; Sven-Åke Johansson: drums.



Cool Quartett Vol. II

Tracks: The Last time I Saw Paris; Easy to Love; Half-Foreground; Star Eyes (alt.take); All of You; Half-Background; Lisa; I've Told Every Little Star.

Personnel: Axel Dörner: trumpet; Zoran Terzic: piano; Jan Roder: bass; Sven-Åke Johansson: drums.



Coolquartett / Sextett

Tracks: Bernie's Tune; Broadway; Long Ago And Far Away; Mine; Sat It Isn't So; I'm In Love; Let's Face The Music And Dance; Night in Tunisia; Tune Up; You've Changed.

Personnel: Axel Dörner: trumpet; Zoran Terzic: piano; Jan Roder: bass; Sven-Åke Johansson: drums, vocals; Tobias Delius: tenor saxophone; Henrik Walsdorff: alto saxophone; Antonio Borghini; bass.



Tune Up

Tracks: The Song Is Yo U; Tangerine; Tune Up; Valse Hot; What A Difference A Day Makes; What's New; Old Black Magic; Darn The Dream; Cool Blues; Day By Day.

Personnel: Tobias Delius: tenor saxophone; Sven-Åke Johansson: drums; Jan Roder, contrabass; Aki Takase: piano.



Candy

Tracks: Candy; You stepped Out Of A Dream; Over Man; To Close For Comfort; I'll Be Seeing You; The Way You look Tonight; I'm An Old Cowhand; Old Devil Moon; I Can't Get Started; Stars Fell On Alabama.

Personnel: Axel Dörner: trumpet; Sven-Åke Johansson: drums; Joe Williamson: contrabass.

Track Listing: Track #1; Track #2; Track #3.

Personnel: Musician Name #1: instrument; Musician Name #2: instrument; Musician Name #3: instrument.

Record Label: SÅj


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