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Kjell Ohman: The Duke (2012)

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Kjell Ohman: The Duke How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

In the somewhat circumscribed world of Swedish popular music, Kjell Öhman has been there, done that and bought the T-shirt. The keyboard wizard, born in 1943, has worked as a studio musician on more than three thousand recordings, with stars ranging from keyboardist/singer Georgie Fame
Georgie Fame
Georgie Fame
b.1943
keyboard
to harmonicist Toots Thielemans
Toots Thielemans
Toots Thielemans
b.1922
harmonica
, produced music for some of the country's top TV shows and, for 17 years, was musical director of a national institution, the televised summer sing-alongs at Skansen, Stockholm's outdoor museum.

Of late, he has become increasingly involved in jazz, notably playing Hammond organ with guitarist Erik Söderlind (born 1981), to recreate the sound of B3 hard bopper Jimmy Smith
Jimmy Smith
Jimmy Smith
1925 - 2005
organ, Hammond B3
. Now he's doing his own thing on an album of jazz standards, playing piano with Hans Backenroth, one of the best bassists on the Scandinavian scene, and drummer Joakim "Jocke" Ekberg—who, like Öhman, has hitherto worked primarily as a studio and TV musician.

The trio runs through seven jazz standards, two film numbers, Glenn Miller
Glenn Miller
Glenn Miller
1904 - 1944
trombone
's 1939 chart-topper "Stairway To The Stars," and "Shanna," by Swedish bassist Georg Riedel, best known for his work with former Jazz At The Philharmonic pianist Jan Johansson
Jan Johansson
1931 - 1968
piano
.

They are extremely competent and the resulting music very listenable, but lacking what Whitney Balliett famously called "the sound of Surprise." In other words, it's all a trifle predictable.

Of the jazz standards, Öhman includes two by his idol, Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson
1925 - 2007
piano
—the up-tempo opener, "Kelly's Blues" and the ballad "When Summer Comes." Both allow Backenroth solo space in which to salute one of his own mentors, the late, great bassist Ray Brown
Ray Brown
Ray Brown
1926 - 2002
bass, acoustic
, who played extensively with Peterson.

But the standout is the title track, Dave Brubeck
Dave Brubeck
Dave Brubeck
1920 - 2012
piano
's tribute to Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
. Melodic, verging on catchy, but by no means easy to play (Brubeck originally planned to call it "The Duke Meets Darius Milhaud"). Öhman & Co, undaunted by a welter of covers from some of the greatest names in jazz, makes a really good fist of this one.


Track Listing: Kelly's Blues; One For The Woofer; Stairway To The Stars; The Duke; Squatty Roo; Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?; When Summer Comes; The Best Things In Life Are Free; My Foolish Heart; Afternoon In Paris; Shanna.

Personnel: Kjell Öhman: piano; Hans Backenroth: bass; Joakim Ekberg: drums.

Record Label: Prophone Records


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