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Jonas Kullhammar Old and New Ways


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Swedish great saxophonist Jonas Kullhammar always knew to position his musical activities in a rich historical, musical and artistic context, often with a sharp sense of humor. His tenor playing owes much to such great American post-bop sax players as John Coltrane (and his quartet covered recently Coltrane seminal A Love Supreme), but also to iconic Swedish fire-blowers Lars Gullin, Bernt Rosengren, with whom he recorded recently, and Gilbert Holmström. The two albums with Holmström New Quintet and his last one with his own quartet mark a conclusion of an era and opening of a new one for the ever-resourceful Kullhammar.

Gilbert Holmström New Quintet
Tiden Är Kort

Holmström, now 77 years old, is part of the Nordic jazz legacy in its various incarnations. A Charlie Parker concert at Gothenburg's Concert Hall in 1950 left a lasting impression on him and convinced him to choose a musical career over dentistry. Gilbert Holmström led his own quintet in the sixties inspired by the American free jazz of Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler and Archie Shepp, and in the seventies his quintet— now called Mount Everest—alternated between fusion and expressive, acoustic jazz, later spiced with Latin elements. Since the mid- eighties his musical activities focused around the Jazzgalleriet in Gothenburg, his hometown, where exhibitions and concerts were organized.

Moserbie—Kullhammar's label—reissued in 2011 the classic album of Holmström quintet from 1965, Utan Misstankar (Without Suspicion), still considered one of the best Swedish jazz albums of all times. Recording Tiden Är Kort (Time is short) with a new quintet is a natural conclusion of the successful reissue. Holmström wrote all the compositions except the title piece, taken from the old Christian song.

Holmström is backed by Kullhammar and Kullhammar Quartet rhythm section—double bassist Torbjorn Zetterberg and drummer Jonas Holgersson plus the brilliant trumpeter Magnus Broo, a member of the Swedish- Norwegian quintet Atomic. This quintet enjoys supporting the articulate and commanding solos of Holmström, gently repeating and expanding his musical ideas almost like a choir, all locked in light swinging pulse. The emotional ballads "Osaka" and "Stars fading blue" highlight Holmström's soft and velvety tenor voice while "Desert Walk" and "Indian chant" emphasizes the tight and supportive interplay with Kullhammar and Broo, all three soaring above the hypnotic, propulsive rhythms laid by Zetterberg and Holgersson. The smoking, be- bop "Dog fight" offers Holmström opportunity to trade fast, muscular solos with Kullhammar and Broo. This heartfelt tribute to a great musical figure is concluded with a soulful ballad that injects a soft swinging pulse to an ancient hymn.

Jonas Kullhammar Quartet
Låt Det Vara

The title of this album—Let It Be—and the cover—on which Jonas Kullhammar is photographed in the exact positions of John, Paul. George and Ringo on The Beatles farewell album—assure all Kullhammar followers that he has not lost his excellent sense of humor even though this is the farewell album of the Kullhammar Quartet. Kullhammar refers to this album as a summation of his musical career so far, beginning as a full-time musician in 1998 and stopping only for an unfortunate sabbatical in 2009, with all the many turns of a musician who played in over 150 recordings and countless gigs all over the world, "starting on top, going down, and back up again...."

The quartet—Kullhammar on the tenor sax only and like-minded strong, opinionated friends, pianist Torbjörn Gulz, double bassist Zetterberg and drummer Holgersson—has been working together since 2000 and still feature its trademark, telepathic, collaborative interplay on Kullhammar's seven post-bop compositions. Even on pieces with titles as "Allting kan gå itu" (Everything can fall apart) and "KBT" (the Swedish acronym for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) the immediate, powerful and playful communication of the quartet musicians, with thoughtful alternating flights of 'in' and 'out' solos, dismisses any melancholic thoughts. The contemplative ballad "Domedagen" highlights the fragile, emotional side of Kullhammar, the wise, gentle touches of Gulz and, again, the hypnotic pulse that Zetterberg—with remarkable arco playing— and Holgersson sketch together.

Kullhammar concludes the long and winding road of this unique quartet with the festive and uplifting title piece, expanding the quartet to seven musicians, including his father Janne Kullhammar on drums, all repeating and magnifying his passionate, soaring solo. Now it is our turn, Kullhammar followers, to sing to him: "Get Back," and please, soon.

Tracks and Personnel

Tiden Är Kort

Tracks: 1976; Osaka; Desert Walk; Libero; Stars Fading Blue; Dog Fight; Indian Chant; Tiden Är Kort.

Personnel: Gilbert Holmström: tenor saxophone; Jonas Kullhammar: stritch, tenor, baritone & bass Saxophone; Magnus Broo: trumpet; Torbjörn Zetterberg: double bass; Jonas Holgersson: drums.

Låt Det Vara

Tracks: Älvsalavals; Allting kan gå itu; Domedagen; KBT; Julaftonsfan; Födelsedagen; Låt det vara.

Personnel: Jonas Kullhammar: tenor saxophone; Torbjörn Gulz: piano; Torbjörn Zetterberg: double bass; Jonas Holgersson: drums; Goran Kajfes: trumpet (7); Susana Santos Silva: trumpet (7); Mats Äleklint: trombone (7); Per "Ruskträsk" Johansson: alto saxophone (7); Janne Kullhammar: drums (7); Per-Olav Moritz: tamtam (7).

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