The Stockholm Jazz Orchestra
has been together since 198440 years at this writing. That is quite an achievement. especially in an age where large ensembles make little financial sense. In 1986, Bob Brookmeyer
joined the band as a guest, eventually leading to his compositions featuring on their debut album, Dreams
(Dragon, 1988). Subsequently, they have played with artists such as Maria Schneider
and undertaken numerous worldwide tours.
Operating similarly to a jazz collective, all the musicians have their careers as accomplished soloists and composers. Since 2011, the band has primarily focused on music composed by its members, with Martin Sjöstedt
having come to the fore as writer and arranger. Horizon features nine compositions, four composed by Sjöstedt, together with five standards. All the arrangements are written to highlight specific soloists. Sjöstedt acts as a pianist in this recording but is also known as a bassist. He has performed with artists such as Joe Lovano
, Eric Alexander
and Bobo Stenson
The album opens with Herbie Hancock
's "Butterfly." It sets the standard for the album with razor-sharp horn timing in a sprightly call and response, before Fredrik Kronkvist
cuts loose with his alto saxophone. Sjöstedt has a solo at the end that flows and softens the edges.
Throughout the album, Sjöstedt's vision is to create freedom for individuals to solo, much as in a piano trio, but within a framework that embodies a big band. He mainly succeeds with this aim. Johan Christoffersson
's alto saxophone catches the ear in Sjöstedt's "Intervals." Karl Olandersson
's trumpet and Hannes Junestav
's trombone both excel in Charlie Parker
's "Donna Lee," while Peter Dahlgren
's trombone is sharply focused on John Coltrane
's "26-2." All are underpinned by fine work by bassist Niklas Fernqvist
and Adam Ross
The band's arrangement of Abdullah Ibrahim
's "The Wedding" is sublime. Notable for Karl-Martin Almqvist
's tenor saxophone and Olandersson's trumpet, the band takes Ibrahim's spare and graceful tune and finds new elements of melody, whilst maintaining the tinge of sadness that the tune demands.
Elsewhere, Sjöstedt's composition "Tengtones" displays great combinations between his piano and Nils Janson
's trumpet. There is a swing and swagger in another Sjöstedt composition, "Mulgrew." The arrangement of Coltrane's "Equinox" ends the album in great style. The warm and impassioned atmosphere is enhanced by Almqvist's saxophone and Magnus Broo
Navigating the tricky waters between the freedom of the soloist and the demands of a large ensemble, Sjöstedt's proficient arrangements allow the orchestra to make waves whilst finding channels for the soloist to fit naturally. The orchestra plays flawlessly, often weaving textures that can seamlessly shift from dark to light while the soloists improvise at a high level, making this an attractive example of the jazz orchestra art form.
Butterfly; Intervals; Donna Lee; Horizon; The Wedding; Mulgrew; 26-2; Tengtones; Equinox.
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