At the age of 30, tenor saxophonist and flutist Magnus Lindgren is already a perennial winner of jazz polls and competitions in Sweden. Like Chris Potter here in the States, Lindgren is a talented young player who often shows up as an accompanist on the best releases of the year as well as a leader of his own sessions. Lindgren was chosen as Sweden's Jazz Artist of the Year in 2001, his quartet’s debut album Way Out
was nominated for a Swedish Grammy award, and his follow-up Paradise Open
won Sweden’s coveted Gyllene Skiven gold record award.
With his new release, The Game , Lindgren continues to validate the praise heaped upon him, though not in the bold fashion that one might expect. The emphasis of The Game is on composition and most of its songs are structured to convey mood rather than set the stage for solos. This is immediately apparent on the opening track “Holyem.” Though Lindgren’s trademark breathy tone and controlled lyricism are the first things you hear, he states the theme with deliberate patience and ornaments the melody with elegant phrases, never pursuing the conventional climax. Pianist Mathias Algotsson displays similar restraint in an effort to create the beautiful. It’s this kind of nuanced performance that informs many of the songs on The Game , but the record also serves up funky rhythms and swinging mid-tempo numbers that hold one’s interest as well.
One of the most appealing songs on The Game is “Ethnomore,” a three-stage song cycle that glides from pulsating funk to rhythmic exploration to a smoldering Lindgren tenor workout, all in just under six minutes. The title track is another highlight with the quartet displaying impressive interplay as it deconstructs the entire composition and renews it using rhythm and melody as its foundation. Lindgren’s brisk version of “Caravan” is hard to resist, and on “Softly As In A Morning Sunrise” he delivers a gorgeous Sonny Rollins-style solo that is refreshingly free of clichés.
He may not possess the blazing speed or technical prowess of America’s top tenors, but Lindgren has developed a distinctive brand of lyricism that conveys a great range of emotion. The real surprise is that his flute playing is often more exciting than his tenor sax playing. His whispered overtones, cascading runs and soulful conception inject genuine excitement into songs like the shimmering “Seven Is Heaven” and the spellbinding “When You Go.”
If there’s a drawback to The Game , it’s that the quartet’s rigid adherence to compositional structure often carries the sound into commercial jazz territory. But the condition isn’t chronic. As Scandinavian jazz fans have learned, 'most any recording that features Magnus Lindgren is worth a good listen. The Game is no exception.
Personnel: Magnus Lindgren: tenor sax, flute, alto flute, bass flute, bass clarinet.
Mathias Algotsson: piano.
Fredrik Jonsson: bass.
Jonas Holgersson: drums.