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I've heard and reviewed a great number of marvelous big'band albums from Europe, but none that surpasses this dynamic concert date by Sweden's superb Sandviken Big Band which has 'desert island candidate' written all over it. One can present nothing beyond an acclamatory appraisal, as Sandviken simply provides no credible reason for censure ' nor do its superb guest artists, trumpeter Bobby Shew and organist / composer Kjell 'hman. Shew, whose stylish horn has embellished big bands all over the world, solos on the standard 'Mean to Me' and a brace of compositions by the legendary trumpeter Clifford Brown, 'Joy Spring' and 'Daahoud.' 'hman, who must be Sweden's answer to Jimmy Smith, Groove Holmes, Mel Rhyne and other prominent organ masters, is heard on three of his admirable compositions, 'Whipper Snapper,' 'Alice's Fax' and 'Blues for Ann'Marie,' and he and Shew team up on the Ellington classic, 'In a Sentimental Mood.' There are no dead spots anywhere; everything is brightly packaged and buoyantly performed. And when neither Shew nor 'hman is present, Sandviken takes up the slack with its breathtaking ensemble work and a task force of capable soloists. These include trumpeter Joakim Tromark (who sprints with Shew almost stride'for'stride on 'Joy Spring'); guitarist Sten H'stf'lt ('Whipper Snapper'); Tromark, clarinetist Adam Dahlberg and trombonist Per Haglind ('Second Line'); bassist Hans Wikman ('Mean to Me'); tenor Peter Nordwall ('Daahoud'); Dalhberg again, this time on alto ('Blues for Ann'Marie') and last but not least, a tenor saxophonist who, like Madonna or Cher in this country, is known to Jazz fans in Sweden by only one name, Jonken. The given name is Lennart Jonsson, and he's in topnotch form alongside 'hman on 'Alice's Fax' and (with pianist Niklas Bjarneh'll) on the Alec Wilder ballad, 'I'll Be Around.' As for Shew, he gladdens the occasion whenever he appears ' as, for that matter, does 'hman, whose artistry has heretofore been unheard on these shores but should be heard more often. As for highlights, there are a number on every track ' but please check out the walkin' intro by Shew (muted) and Wikman on Frank Mantooth's first'class arrangement of 'Mean to Me' and the trumpeter's soulful sparring session with 'hman on 'Sentimental Mood.' This was a great concert. I wish I'd been there, but that wasn't possible. Thanks, then, to Four Leaf Clover for sharing the event with the rest of us via this wonderful recording.
Track listing: Joy Spring; Whipper Snapper; Second Line; Alice's Fax; Mean to Me; I'll Be Around; Daahoud; In a Sentimental Mood; Blues for Ann'Marie (69:31).
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