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So I can’t pronounce the cat’s name. It matters not. That’s what makes Jazz — almost any music, for that matter — so singularly inspiring. It transcends such narrow boundaries as name, rank, serial number, age, ethnicity or other specious considerations. The only question that must be answered is, “Can he (or she) play?” Guitarist Johan Leijonhufvud and his hard–working associates (bassist Christian Spering, drummer Peter Nilsson) respond musically with an emphatic “yes” on Eurolines, recorded in concert last October at the Cosmopolitan Café in Malmö, Sweden. In doing so, they hold the audience in the palm of their collective hand throughout a tasteful program that consists of five original compositions by Leijonhufvud, Jazz works by Milt Jackson (“S.K.J.”) and Wes Montgomery (“The Trick Bag”) and the standards “Yesterdays” and “You Go to My Head.” Nothing radical, simply solid straight–ahead Jazz played with impressive proficiency and awareness. As I’ve often said, I couldn’t pick a guitarist out of a lineup if someone ordered me to do so by placing a gun to my head, but I do know a player when I hear one, and Leijonhufvud, who is recording as a leader for the third time, easily qualifies. He has all the tools — superb technique, crystalline sound, ample range, engaging ideas. His compositions, if less than spellbinding, are efficient preambles to group improvisation, which is what the trio is about. Leijonhufvud has worked with Spering and Nilsson for a number of years, and there’s a natural rapport among them that lends the session much of its richness and charm. Charming it is, and even though somewhat hard to find, worth seeking out.
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.