It's all too easy to underestimate the European jazz scene's vibrancy from a distant perch in North America. After all, while labels like ECM, ACT, and Hatology have international distribution, there are far more that rarely see the light of day outside their own countries. Fortunately, the global access of the internet has made it possible for such labels, and the artists they represent, to gain a foothold in markets hitherto unreachable.
Barely into his thirties, Swedish saxophonist Magnus Lindgren has a considerable reputation in his own country, with Way Out (Caprice, 1999) nominated for a Swedish Grammy in 2000. Rooted in tradition but undeniably contemporary, Lindgren combines clear virtuosity on saxophone, flute and clarinet with a vivid thematic approach bearing some resemblance to Michael Brecker. Music for the Neighbours finds Lindgren inspired by jazz-meets-orchestra collaborations including pianist Bill Evans' Trio with Symphony Orchestra (Verve, 1966), but unlike Evans Lindgren focuses entirely on his own writing. This recording, taped at a September, 2004 concert, demonstrates Lindgren's rich tone and clarity of thought, as well as an accessible but multifaceted writing style.
While bearing little direct stylistic resemblance, fans of Brecker's Wide Angles (Verve, 2003) and guitarist Pat Metheny's Secret Story (Geffen, 1992) will find much to like about Music for the Neighbours. With the same sweeping sense of scope and range of instrumental colors, like those two records it also leaves space for improvisation by a core groupin this case Lundgren's quartet, augmented by vocalist Rigmore Gustafsson and percussionist Magnus Persson.
Gustafsson's I Will Wait for You (ACT, 2003) demonstrated her evocatively understated ability. Here her wordless vocals range from rapid-fire bop lines in unison with Lundgren and the strings on the up-tempo swinger "Delion, to mining more languid Norma Winstone territory on the lightly funky and Latin-inflected "Megeve.
Lundgren makes full use of the 48-piece orchestra for color and counterpoint, with a firm sense of construction defining the program. Still, there's plenty of room for the quartet to let loose. "My Bridge begins as a gentle tone poem, with Lundgren soloing over the orchestra, but ultimately evolves into a lithe samba for pianist Matthias Algotsson's powerful solo. "Double Drummer begins with brief orchestral bombast, but Persson and drummer Jonas Holgersson quickly rein things in with a funky but dense backbeat to support Lindgren's strongest solo of the set. Lindgren switches to flute for "Sunny People, a tune that brings Metheny's bright Midwestern ambience to mind, and gives bassist Fredrik Jonsson a chance to stretch.
Utilizing DualDisc technology, Music for the Neighbours features a CD side of the audio program with one bonus track, and a DVD side with the entire performance plus two bonus tracks as well as an interview with Lindgren in Swedish with English subtitles. The ability to hear and see Lindgren perform, as well as gain insight through the interviews, makes Music for the Neighbours a terrific introduction to those unfamiliar with this clear talent and a treasure trove for those already in the know.
Magnus Lindgren Quartet: Magnus Lindgren: saxophones, flute, clarinet; Matthias
Algotsson: piano; Fredrik Jonsson: double bass; Jonas Holgersson: drums; with Rigmore
Gustafsson: vocal; Magnus Persson: percussion; Malm