Swedish composer and jazz artist Jakob Norgren is a complex individual with a fascinating background of which band leader is only one component of his varied resume. Leading the Swedish-based contemporary Jakob Norgren Jazz Orchestra, the group deliver their debut album on the audacious Pathfinding, where the music is big band, modern with all new original material that swings all over. A research assistant in cognitive neuroscience at the Karolinska Institutet in Solna, Sweden, Norgren also finds the time to teach psychology, music and lead his own ensemble. This first project reveals several unique aspects which among them are, a production from the Swedish Arts Council, a collaborative effort featuring tenor saxophonist Jonas Kullhammar and a major role for the underappreciated baritone saxophone performed by the leader.
Though Norgren also plays the clarinet here, his major contribution remains as a composer and arranger leaving the bulk of the soloing leads to Kullhammar with spot solos from other members of the band. The opening title track sets the band on a swinging path with a modern twist featuring a short baritone burst from Norgren, expanded tenor solos by Kullhammar and a lively trombone joust from Mats Aleklnit.
The down tempo flugelhorn of Jonne Bentlov and the unusual jazz bassoon performed by saxophonist Kai Sundquist, lead the music on the following "Some Kind of Dancing" which departs from the swinging nature of the opener and provides a more melancholy sound. Norgren takes to the contra alto clarinet establishing the main theme of the sprite and splashy "Serendipity," which also features a steamy alto saxophone solo by Peter Fredman followed by more of Kullhammar on one of his brightest solos of the recording.
There's a slight New Orleans groove penned into the original "Parade" featuring a musical dialogue between trombonist Aleklint and the featured tenor soloist in a delicious lobbying back and forth keeping one engaged. The album concludes with a two-part suite entitled "Secret Walks, Part 1" and "Secret Walks, Part 2," which features more of a modern, non-traditional jazz orchestrations fitting within the main theme of the album.
As musical debuts go, Jakob Norgren and his Orchestra have chosen the modern route to fine big band music with Pathfinding, marking a "True North" direction to superb, sophisticated ensemble music that leave the old traditions behind and charts a new path for big band jazz.
Pathfinding; Some Kind Of Dancing; Serendipity; Parade; Secret Walks, Part 1; Secret Walks, Part 2.
Jakob Norgren, Jonas Kullhammar, Peter Friedman, Lina Lövstrand, Kai Sundquist, Christian Herluf Pedersen: reeds; Fredrik Oscarsson, Jonne Bentlöv, David Ljunggren, Oscar Lindblom: trumpets; Mats Äleklint, Michael Rörby, Johan Åström, Klas Eriksson: trombones; Mathias Lundquist: piano; Lars Ekman: bass; Isak Andersson: drums.