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In searching for a word or phrase that best describes this album by Swedish pianist Lars Jansson’s sextet, the best I can come up with is “smooth Jazz with a touch of class.” What I mean is that even though the greater part of what is performed on Giving Receiving would not be in the least out of place on so–called “smooth Jazz” radio, these guys can really play! And Jansson’s compositions and charts, while in most cases smooth as spreadable butter, have far more caloric value per measure than the “liter” variety usually encountered on the airwaves or in concert halls. Jansson is a bright and articulate pianist, his colleagues are top–drawer, and it’s especially pleasing to hear Paul McCandless’ expressive English horn on several selections including the pensive title track. There are a number of effective solos, the best of them by Jansson and rising Italian trumpet star Paolo Fresu and the worst (to our ears) by tenor Johan Borgström who gets carried away on “Margaux,” a tumultuous piece that’s quite a bit bumpier than the others. “Margaux” is followed by “To the Little Man,” the most straight–ahead cut on the album, which showcases Jansson’s boppier side. “Spering,” of course, features the group’s bassist, Christian Spering, while McCandless’ woody bass clarinet sets the tone on the polyrhythmic “Petrus.” The album represents the seventh edition of Nordic Meeting, an annual enterprise at Swedish Radio in Göteborg wherein a leading Swedish Jazz musician is enlisted to compose new music for an international ensemble with a Scandinavian profile — in this case four Swedes, the Italian Fresu and McCandless, a Californian and member for more than three decades of the band Oregon. They work exceedingly well together, and those who like their Jazz perceptive as well as smooth should find Giving Receiving a most pleasurable experience.
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