4 Wheel Drive: 4 Wheel Drive

Geno Thackara By

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4 Wheel Drive: 4 Wheel Drive
It may not quite be the loud and fast thrill-ride one might guess from the title, but that doesn't mean it lacks a few fun twists and turns. Here we have four world-class players who can (and sometimes do) carry a whole performance on their own, agreeing to mesh as equals and—more importantly—staying generous and supportive enough to make it work. All are involved in choosing the songs, each member contributes a piece of their own, and their good-natured interplay is always a pleasure to hear.

The overall tone of 4WD leans towards the soothing, though Michael Wollny's opening number makes it clear this quartet can do lively and slinky just as well. Nils Landgren sways and swings through "Le Chat sur Toit" with some expressive trombone, then elsewhere sings a few surprisingly fresh AOR classics with charming simplicity. When the group turns toward bop, it's the friendly variety that keeps a group playing off each other for hours on the bandstand.

While the melody players trade plenty of playful leads, they're no more important than Wolfgang Haffner's snappy rolls or the tones of Lars Danielsson's bass and cello. Pay closer attention to the rhythm players and they're continually percolating underneath the obvious melody lines, as in the subtle propulsion that makes Haffner's "Lobito" groove with such warmth.

Where most of the ballads' arrangements are straightforward, there are a couple moments of surprise—check Wollny's soulful romp behind Sting's "If You Love Somebody," or more interestingly, Landgren's sassy tone-stretching during the semi-abstract mutation of "That's All." Interesting as they are, it's almost a shame the pop covers make two-thirds of the list, especially once the disc closes with a Danielsson-written jaunt that frustratingly fades out too soon. A full set of originals would be a most welcome next step. Maybe that will provide the perfect pretext for a followup.

Track Listing

Polygon; Another Day in Paradise; Lady Madonna; Shadows in the Rain; Lobito; Maybe I'm Amazed; She's Always a Woman; Le chat sur toit; Just the Way You Are; If You Love Somebody Set Them Free; That's All; 4WD.


Nils Landgren: trombone, vocals; Michael Wollny: piano; Lars Danielsson: bass; Wolfgang Haffner: drums.

Album information

Title: 4 Wheel Drive | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: ACT Music

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