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Kurt Jarnberg: Down Memory Lane, Vols 3 and 4

Jack Bowers By

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For some of us, Memory Lane is much longer and far more crowded than it once was. Be that as it may, any trip there remains a pleasurable experience, more so when the guide is Swedish trombonist / trumpeter Kurt Jarnberg who employs his quartet, quintet, big band and a host of talented guest artists to enhance this by and large congenial four-CD anthology, Down Memory Lane, Vols 3 and 4. Another companion on the journey is Jarnberg's lovely wife and band vocalist, Ruth Asenlund-Jarnberg, who is featured extensively on Vol. 3 and sings on thirteen of twenty-one numbers on Vol. 4, Disc 2 (Disc 1, devoted to the big band, is entirely instrumental, with Jarnberg alternating between trombone and trumpet).

Jarnberg, who doubles (triples?) as composer and arranger, wrote nine of the thirty-one tunes on Vol. 3, both of whose discs showcase the quintet exclusively, but only two (one for the quartet, the other for the big band) on Vol. 4. Aside from Jarnberg's songs and charts, most of the material on both volumes is taken either from the jazz standard repertoire or the Great American Songbook, which is where Asenlund-Jarnberg makes her home. Sound quality varies widely on Vol. 3, flagging most on the vocal tracks, several of which do the singer no favors. When she can be clearly heard, Asenlund-Jarnberg sings capably albeit with a pronounced Swedish accent. While no dates for these recordings are given, most if not all were probably taped in the 1970s and / or '80s, some in concert, others in a studio setting. Jarnberg formed his big band in 1967, with the quartet / quintet (and Asenlund-Jarnberg) following some years later.

Jarnberg's core group on Vol. 3 consists of the leader on trombone, baritone saxophonist Wolf Johansson, pianist Reidar Knudsen, bassist Ulf Magnusson and drummer Leif "Gus" Dahlberg. Sitting in from time to time are a who's who of first-class Swedish sidemen, each of whom has something meaningful to contribute. Even though adept soloists are everywhere apparent, it is Jarnberg's incisive sorties on trombone, patterned after Carl Fontana and the Danish-born Kai Winding, that are most persuasive. He's also a front-rank composer / arranger, for small group or big band, writing in an accessible straight-ahead manner that exemplifies the time in which Jarnberg's ensembles were at their peak.

The big band provides a welcome change of pace on Vol. 4's first disc, on which Jarnberg varies the menu between well-known standards and jazz favorites by Quincy Jones, Benny Golson, Neal Hefti, Sammy Nestico, Horace Silver and others alongside his own fast-paced composition, "Diggin' the Old Cats." Johansson returns on baritone, and there are admirable solos by tenors Roland Keijser, Gunnar Cyren and Anders Lindskog; trumpeter Torsten Johansson, alto Hakan Lewin, pianist Thomas Jutterstrom and drummer Jan Westin. Jarnberg's trombone is showcased on "Old Cats," Billy Reid's "The Gypsy" and "Nancy" (with the Laughing Face), his trumpet on Sammy Nestico's "Carnaby Street" and "Feelin' Free," Gugge Hedrenius' "Mr. Juice" and the standards "That's All" and "I Can't Get Started" (the last with Torsten Johansson), Keijser's nimble tenor on "Easy Living." Jarnberg proves as adept on trumpet as he is on trombone. And even though the sound in many cases isn't up to par (and sometimes not even close), it's rather easy to deduce that Jarnberg led a first-rate band, even though he writes that it was formed "as a school for free-time musicians and amateur musicians, young and old." While in no way wishing to discredit the truth of that statement, amateurs they were not. As music critic Leif Domnerus wrote, paying the band his highest compliment, "It sounds American!" Although that point of view is hard to assess at this distance, one thing the band definitely does not sound is unprofessional.

Jarnberg skippers a number of quartets on Vol. 4, Disc 2, at least one of whose focus is on Asenlund-Jarnberg's vocals; she sings on thirteen of the first fourteen numbers with solos by Jarnberg (trumpet) and guitarist Rolf Edstrom. The other members of that quartet are bassist Bosse Hedman and drummer Lennart Englin. Again, the themes are garnered from the Great American Songbook with one exception: Jarnberg's "Bop Home in Rimsbo." Jarnberg then alternates between trombone, trumpet and flugelhorn for the remainder of the session, supported by tenor Keijser, baritone Johansson, pianists Knudsen and Jutterstrom and sundry others including organist Erkki Ertama ("The Dream of Olven," "In a Monastery Garden"). As before, the sound is variable as several recording dates are involved.

In closing, a few words about Jarnberg who has been active on the Swedish jazz scene for more than half a century since landing his first professional gig with the well-respected Lulle Ellboj Big Band (whose celebrated alumni include Lars Gullin, Arne Domnerus, Rolf Ericson and Gosta Theselius). He later played with bands led by Ib Glindemann and Carl-Henrik Norin as well as the Swedish Radio, Hamburger Rudfunk and Emanon Big Bands. After his own band ran aground he formed the quartet, adding Ruth Asenlund-Jarnberg as vocalist and wife. Over the years, Jarnberg has recorded at least a dozen or more albums with his big band and smaller groups. In spite of the sound problems, Down Memory Lane offers an interesting if flawed glance at a notable part of the Swedish jazz scene and one of its acclaimed leaders in the mid-twentieth century.

Track Listing: Vol. 3, Disc 1: Diggin’ the Old Cats; Vingel-Per; Mr. Hemo; Stella by Starlight; Darn That Dream; Project S; Alternativ 3; But Beautiful; Nica’s Dream; Donna Lee; Lush Life; Lyran; Cotton Tail; Midnight Sun; Opus de Funk. Vol. 3, Disc 2; Bluesin’; You Stepped Out of a Dream; Easy Living; Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans; Honeysuckle Rose; I Folkvesiton; My Own Blues; I’ll Remember April; I Loves You Porgy; Ain’t Misbehavin’; Prelude to a Kiss; Mr. Jamps Stamps; I Won’t Last a Day without You; Just Friends; Too Late Now; Trombone Solo Collage. Vol. 4, Disc 1: Lady Bob; Easy Living; Reggie of Chester; I Can’t Get Started; Flight of the Foo Birds; Diggin’ the Old Cats; Mr. Juice; The Gypsy; Fragment from Ballet in Colors; The Continental; Carnaby Street; Feelin’ Free; That’s All; Sister Sadie; Nancy; Along Came Betty; A Hymn to the Sorrow; Kick of the Blues / Nice Dog. Vol. 4, Disc 2: I Love You; Day by Day; Smoke Gets in Your Eyes; A Lot of Livin’ to Do; Stars Fell on Alabama; Have You Met Miss Jones; Embraceable You; Who’s Sorry Now; But Not for Me; The Shadow of Your Smile; For Once in My Life; Easy Living; Bop Home in Rimsbo; Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child; You Don’t Know What Love Is; Stop; Hayseed; Reserve Charges; Who Can I Turn To; The Dream of Olven; In a Monastery Garden.

Personnel: Vol. 3: Kurt Jarnberg Quintet: Jarnberg: leader, trombone, arranger; Ruth Asenlund-Jarnberg: vocals; Wolf Johansson: baritone sax; Bob Bertles: baritone sax; Reidar Knudsen: piano; Ulf Magnusson: bass; Leif “Gus” Dahlberg: drums. Other participating musicians: Thomas Juttterstrom: piano; Dave Levy: piano; Lasse Sjosten: piano; Mark Olsson: piano. Magnus Eriksson: bass; Leif Norberg: bass; Mats Nilsson: bass; Dave Sadel: bass; Goran Petterson: bass; Walter Granlund: bass. Bosse Soderberg: drums; Richie McDonald: drums; Fredrik Noren: drums; Eddie Mika: drums; Alf Johnsson: drums. Vol. 4, Disc 1: Kurt Jarnberg Big Band. Jarnberg: trombone, trumpet. Other personnel unlisted. Soloists: Torsten Johansson: trumpet; Olle Brynhammar: trumpet; Hakan Lewis: alto sax; Roland Keijser: tenor sax; Gunnar Cyren: tenor sax; Anders Lindskog: tenor sax; Mats Andersson: tenor sax; Wolf Johansson: baritone sax; Kjell Hedberg: baritone sax; Rolf Edstrom: guitar; Thomas Jutterstrom: piano; Reidar Knutsen: piano; Jan “Janken” Westin: drums; Sven-Olof Lofwing: drums. Vol. 4, Disc 2: Jarnberg: trumpet, trombone, flugelhorn; Roland Keijser: tenor sax; Wolf Johansson: baritone sax; Rolf Edstrom: guitar; Reidar Knutsen: piano; Erkki Ertama: organ; Rodger Framton: piano; Andy Brown: bass; Ron Lemke: drums; Ruth Asenlund-Jarnberg: vocals.

Title: Down Memory Lane, Vols 3 and 4 | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Self Produced

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