Sweden’s world–class Bohuslän Big Band, which hit its stride in the ’90s via a number of superlative recordings with guest artists (One Poem, One Painting; A Perfect Match; Pegasos; The Blue Pearl),
stumbles from the starting gate and has trouble closing ground on Faces,
an ambitious but uneven set of compositions and arrangements by members of the band. This is, of course, only one reviewer’s less than definitive opinion, and the session does indeed enclose its share of engaging moments, especially during trombonist Christer Olofsson’s deeply lyrical “No Time to Waste,” tenor Johan Borgström’s striking four–part deconstruction of Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady,” tenor Michael Karlsson’s expressive “Colors of Hemiola” and Olofsson’s ardent treatment of Michel Legrand’s “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life.” These are counterbalanced, however, by arid stretches during bass trombonist Niclas Rydh’s three–movement suite, “Faces,” and Karlsson’s rock–imbued “Goblin Market.” Rydh’s composition, which opens the session, failed to hold my interest in spite of his often inventive writing and respectable improvisations by Borgström (soprano) and Rydh (I), trumpeter Staffan Svensson (II) and Ove Ingemarsson (EWI), III. “No Time” proved a pleasant change of pace, both literally and figuratively, with its even–tempered cadences and lovely voicings underlining graceful solos by Olofsson and trumpeter Mårten Lundgren. “Goblin Market,” which features Karlsson, bassist Yasuhito Mori and drummer Göran Kroon, brings to mind similar compositions by American tenor saxophonist Bob Mintzer, who has performed with Bohuslän on a number of occasions. Borgström, whose sleek tenor opens Part I, remains close to Ellington’s muse on “Sophisticated Lady” (vocalist Lina Nyberg is featured on II, baritone Jan Forslund on III), inserting between those last two movements his more abstract “Inner Thoughts” about the lady (with help from Svensson’s Miles–like muted trumpet). “Hemiola” is a straight–ahead wailer with cogent statements by trumpeter Lundgren and alto Niklas Robertsson, while “Rest of Your Life” provides a sturdy framework for Ingemarsson’s expressive tenor. Brass and reeds are as proficient as ever, and Kroon, Mori and keyboardist Tommy Kotter keep the rhythm on an even keel throughout the voyage. Not the best we’ve heard from Bohuslän, but certainly worth one’s earnest consideration.
Track listing: Faces, Part I; Faces, Part II; Faces, Part III; No Time to Waste; Goblin Market; Sophisticated Lady, Part I; Sophisticated Lady, Part II; Inner Thoughts (. . .of the Lady); Sophisticated Lady, Part III; Colors of Hemiola; What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life (72:43).