This is the second volume by the Stockholm Jazz Orchestra of compositions and arrangements by its talented pianist, Göran Strandberg, following 2000's Lakes
(Dragon). As on that earlier album, much of the music is Strandberg's, with half a dozen of his original works complementing inventive arrangements of Harold Arlen's "Come Rain or Come Shine, Jerome Kern's "Yesterdays, Johnny Mandel's "The Shadow of Your Smile and Carla Bley's "Flags.
Strandberg's fertile imagination is conspicuous at the outset with an elliptical approach to "Come Rain or Come Shine that would probably have left the composer, Arlen, scratching his head and asking, "Did I really write that? The medium-tempo evergreen is largely a vehicle for tenor saxophonist Karl-Martin Almqvist who evinces admirable resourcefulness and splendid technique when he can avoid screeching. This is the first instance, but not the last, wherein Strandberg reveals his debt to such cutting-edge contemporaries as Bill Holman, Bob Florence, Maria Schneider, Jim McNeely and Bley, among others.
Florence, in fact, wrote a piece called "Sailing some years ago, but it bears no resemblance to Strandberg's, a tremulous theme that features his eloquent piano and Magnus Broo's scatter-shot trumpet. "Puzzle is a straight-on swinger with an impressive turn by alto Johan Hörlén and a marvelous solos by the reeds. Broo fares somewhat better (with Almqvist) on the darkly evocative "Borderline, while the lovely "Yesterdays encompasses upbeat solos by Strandberg, bassist Martin Sjösdedt and brother Bertil Strandberg (euphonium) who also states the theme.
Hörlén is neatly showcased again on the fast-moving "Softly As (based on Sigmund Romberg/Oscar Hammerstein II's "In a Morning Sunrise ). Lead trumpeter Fredrik Norén sparkles on "The Shadow of Your Smile, tenor Robert Nordmark on the buoyant "Självrisk ("Spring Is Here? ), drummer Jukkis Uotila on the brief and buoyant "Flags, trumpeter Peter Asplund on the dynamic closer, "Verly.
As on Lakes, Strandberg shows that he is a composer and arranger blessed with remarkable proficiency and awareness, while the SJO proves once more that it is one of Europe's and the world's leading Jazz ensembles. It's a combination that's hard to beat.
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