Having written reviews for a number of years now, I am no longer surprised by the proficiency of musicians from overseas, many of whose names I’d never heard before our introduction via an album. A case in point is Sweden’s Karl–Martin Almqvist, as capable a post–bop tenor saxophonist as you’re likely to hear on either side of the Atlantic. As there are no liner notes, I don’t know if Almqvist picked up the tenor a few months ago or has been playing it for decades, but I’d suspect that the latter theory is closer to the truth. One simply doesn’t become that accomplished overnight, nor does he record alongside musicians of the caliber of pianist Jan Lundgren, bassist Filip Augustson and drummer Sebastian Voegler, each of whom is a master craftsman in his own right. Lundgren, one of Sweden’s rising young stars, never fails to impress, whether soloing or comping, while Augustson and Voegler enhance the over–all climate of cohesion and dexterity. They’re especially impressive on Tadd Dameron’s “On a Misty Night,” the only track on which Lundgren lays out (and the only selection not written by the leader). Almqvist, in no hurry to score points, steps aside on five selections to let Lundgren have the opening solo, an unselfish gesture that also pays dividends, as Jan is always on top of his game. Extending the analogy, Almqvist strikes the ball solidly on his every turn at bat and scores consistently. As comparisons must be made, especially when the voice is heretofore unknown, Almqvist reminds me most of the late Joe Henderson with allusions to Michael Brecker, Joe Lovano, Jerry Bergonzi, Chris Potter and other contemporary masters (each of whom has been inspired to some degree by Henderson). I’d love to hear Almqvist record an album of well–known standards. Until then, this is a solid effort all around by four of Sweden’s most prominent Jazz musicians.
Track Listing: Mourning Dove; Bright Side of Darkness; Li
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.