A splendid piano trio album from Sweden, Jubilee is beautifully played and beautifully recorded as well. While the names were new to me, it was clear from the outset that Messrs. Johansson, Mori and Karlsson have played together on more than one occasion. Each anticipates the others’ every move and reacts without question or pause, the way a working trio should.
Johannson is an accomplished post-bop pianist who betrays the usual influences from Bill Evans and Billy Taylor to Kenny Drew and Kenny Barron; beyond that, he’s a respectable composer who wrote eight of the nine selections on Jubilee, dedicating one each to Michel Petrucciani (“Merci Beaucoup”), John Coltrane (“Hommage”), Miles Davis (“Kind of Blues”) and Swedish saxophonist Gilbert Holmström (“Baddarblues”) and designing another (“Mori’s Mood”) for his longtime friend and bassist Yasuhito Mori.
Of course, one of the tests for any jazz pianist is how well he handles pieces from the Great American Songbook in this instance, “I Can’t Get Started” and Johansson passes that test with flying colors, deftly bending the melody and adapting the mood to amplify its loveliness and charm while sculpting one of his most seductive solos. All of Johansson’s compositions are radiant, with “Merci Beaucoup,” “La Petite Valse,” “Kind of Blues” and “Mori’s Mood” shining the brightest. Johansson is yet another blue-chip jazz pianist who calls Sweden home, along with both of the other members of his strong and self-confident trio.