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If statesmen and politicians could work together as productively as these unassuming musicians from neighboring countries, what a wonderful world this could be. A Perfect Match (cleverly packaged by Real Records to resemble a match–book cover) blends superbly the talents of the Norwegian quartet The Real Thing with Sweden’s dynamic Bohuslän Big Band to produce a spine–tingling album of straight–ahead Jazz that thunders irrepressibly from start to finish. And to make absolutely sure of that, the chart–making duties were handed to one of America’s foremost big–band composer/arrangers, Tom Kubis, who never fails to rise to the occasion. What enfolds the listener is the best of all possible worlds — a remarkably talented quartet ensconced within a high–powered big band whose luminous charts were fashioned by a master craftsman. For those who appreciate Jazz that’s muscular and swinging, this is about as close to big–band heaven as it gets. I’ve heard only one other such album that approaches this one — Conversation, by the Franco Piana/Enrico Valdambrini sextet and big band (Penta Flowers 019). There are no standards on Perfect Match; all of the engaging songs were written by members of the quartet — five by guitarist William–Olsson, four by organist Wagnberg, two by alto saxophonist Køhn. While they also take most of the solos (and, it should be noted, each of them is superb), there are occasional choruses by Bohuslän’s lead trumpeter, Lars Lindgren, as well as by tenors Ove Ingemarsson (“Spark”) and Michael Karlson (“Scratch My Back”) and baritone Jan Forslund (“Scratch My Back”). Aside from that, the band provides a backdrop for the quartet, but thanks to Kubis, it’s a consistently picturesque and charming canvas on which to paint one’s musical portraits. Bohuslän, which takes its name from its county of residence, about 50 miles north of Gothenburg, and whose origins date to the late 19th century when its main duty was to perform military music, is one of Europe’s most accomplished ensembles, an opinion that is readily confirmed on every selection. The Real Thing is no less capable, and makes an ideal companion in this impelling enterprise. Add Kubis and you have one of the most invigorating big–band dates in recent memory.
Track listing: The Message; Big Deal; Is It Me; Spark; Minor Mambo; The B3 Blues; A Brief Case of the Blues; Play the Whole Thing; What’s Cookin’; Scratch My Back; Last Train (57:46).
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.