major talent. Women seem to be taking to the baritone sax these days like rice to krispies, and Sweden’s Cecilia Wennerström is well–nigh as impressive as any player one can name, male or female. Wennerström (born 1947) is no young lioness; she spent years paying her dues, first as a singer and pianist before moving to tenor sax and later to baritone. The experience has served her well, and is conspicuous on almost every note or phrase she chooses. Wennerström has fashioned her own voice on the unwieldy instrument, rough–textured but consistently plain–spoken and engaging. While there are some fleeting allusions to the legendary baritone maestro, Lars Gullin — especially on the ballads — they are wholly incidental and hardly surprising from one whose heritage is Swedish–style Jazz. Minor Stomp,
recorded in 1997, may be Wennerström’s recording debut (that’s not made clear in the liner notes); if so, she’s had the good sense to abide primarily within the standard repertoire with five frequently heard tunes from the Great American Songbook complementing two of her well–written pieces, “Minor Stomp” and “Behave Yourself.” The music, as one would surmise, is straight–ahead post–bop Jazz, and Wennerström’s able–bodied quartet is solidly in the groove from the outset. Pianist Ann Blom, another burgeoning talent, is a delight to hear, whether comping or soloing, while bassist Filip Augustsson and drummer Henrik Wartel begin walking briskly on George Gershwin’s “Summertime” and don’t let up until the last plaintive notes of “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise” have faded away. Sandwiched between, in addition to Wennerström’s originals, are lustrous performances of “It Might as Well Be Spring,” “Come Rain or Come Shine” and “You Go to My Head.” This is exhilarating contemporary Jazz performed by four musicians with unfamiliar names but world–class credentials.
Track listing: Summertime; It Might as Well Be Spring; Minor Stomp; Come Rain or Come Shine; Behave Yourself; You Go to My Head; Softly as In a Morning Sunrise (61:56).