As the AAJ column Nordic Sounds attests, there is a lot of fine jazz coming out of Scandinavia as of late. One group that certainly deserves an audience beyond the borders of Scandinavia is the Martin Sjostedt Band, which hails from Sweden. Led by the steel-fingered young bassist Martin Sjostedt, the band’s new release Mondeo puts forth an engaging set of compositions that are rich in emotional texture.
Though Sjostedt’s name is on the marquee and his wood-imbued tones provide the skeletal structure for the songs on Mondeo, the driving force behind many of these compositions is a passionate tenor sax and flute player named Magnus Lindgren. Lindgren’s strengths are a breathy lyricism and the ability to squeeze off terse emotional phrases. His talents are immediately apparent on the title track where the modulated intensity of his phrasing provides rich counterpoint to the song’s changing harmonics. He really glides on winning tracks like “Taxi” and his quicksilver improvising on flute on “Take The X Train” is a real treat.
Sjostedt is a very generous bandleader and he has given his bandmates ample opportunities to shine in both the playing and songwriting arenas. Compositionally, the descending harmonic progressions of Sjostedt’s “Mondeo” are the album’s high point, while pianist Jonas Ostholm’s quirky, minor themed “Take The X Train” comes in a close second.
The production values are sparkling and the pristine atmosphere is only enhanced by the precise playing of Sjostedt’s band. Sjostedt plucks thick tones and offers up strong melodic statements on songs like “Lined Up With A Groove” and “To Wisdom The Prize," alto saxophonist Fredrik Kronkvist nearly steals the show from Lindgren with his blistering choruses on the stop-time blues “The Chant” and the rhythmic accents of drummer Daniel Fredricksson are a consistent pleasure on most every track. Ostholm’s playing, though, is a few steps behind the rest of the band. While he displays a quick right hand and interesting ideas on “Taxi,” his phrasing is hesitant and meandering on “Blues But Not” and his subduable playing on "Take The X Train" comes close to bringing the song to a complete halt.
Overall, though, Mondeo has more than its share of enriching moments. It’s a fine example of the mainstream jazz coming out of Sweden and is easily recommended on the strength of Magnus Lindgren’s exquisitely controlled lyricism.
Track Listing: 1. Mondeo
2. The Chant
3. Waltz Peas
4. Lined Up With A Groove
5. Take The X Train
7. To Wisdom The Prize
8. Blues But Not
9. It Could Happen To You
10. J Blooz
Personnel: Martin Sjostedt: bass;
Magnus Lindgren: tenor saxophone, flute;
Jonas Ostholm: piano;
Daniel Fredriksson: drums;
Fredrik Kronkvist: alto saxophone.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.