Jonas Kullhammar: Snake City North

Clifford Allen By

Sign in to view read count
Jonas Kullhammar: Snake City North Where American jazz culture left off, Europe appears to have picked up some of the slack in a longstanding tradition of big bands. Though they're not always more economically viable on the other side of the pond, their mark on post-bebop jazz has nevertheless been undeniable. In addition to the freer organizations like Globe Unity, the London Jazz Composers' Orchestra, ICP, and the Willem Breuker Kollektif are the kaleidoscopic if slightly more "traditional" outfits of John Dankworth, Ronnie Scott, Tubby Hayes, and Kenny Wheeler, not to mention the Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland band. European national radio was also a major contributor to this environment, with NDR and Swedish Radio Jazzgruppen as some of the most impressive soloist-backing ensembles in European jazz history.

Swedish reedman Jonas Kullhammar's new offering is one of those important instances in which a tight core small group is fleshed out by the contributions of a large jazz orchestra. Snake City North features Kullhammar's working quartet backed by the Norrbotten Big Band for seven of the tenorist's compositions and one by pianist Torbjörn Gulz. Kullhammar is an extraordinarily active contributor to the Swedish jazz community, his powerful gutbucket tenor engaging co-conspirators as diverse as pianist Per-Henrik Wallin, drummer Paal Nilsson-Love, and folk-rock star Nicolai Dunger over the past seven years.

Kullhammer's tenor draws inescapable comparisons to Alan Skidmore and Mexican Green-era Tubby Hayes, translating to a powerful and technically formidable midrange saxophonist with a penchant for screaming buzz saw climaxes—certainly gleaned from a strong free jazz pedigree. Joined by the plastic swing of drummer Jonas Holgersson (a propulsive big band drummer if there ever was one) and bassist Torbjörn Zetterberg, as well as pianist/arranger Torbjörn Gulz and the twelve horns of NBB, the group hurtles through the set, starting with the frantic "Snake City East, brassy like a belt buckle and with a turbulent tenor solo to back it up—somewhat like El Skid sitting in with the Clarke-Boland Big Band.

As with a few recent Swedish jazz releases, there is the obligatory homage to tenor man Bengt Frippe Nordstrom (whose Bird Notes label released Albert Ayler's first recording), here titled "Frippe's Blues, with a jagged, almost auto-contrapuntal theme that segues into an earthy funk girding strong, multiphonic-laced statements from the leader and trombonist Peter Dahlgren and bookended by colorful unaccompanied tenor parts. Though knotty brass arrangements are certainly a major part of the equation here, there are a few windows into rather different arranging possibilities—"Slow Drop features a low walk from bass clarinet, baritone, and bass against bubbly piano lines, setting up a nicely dissonant palette from which soloists emerge, while "For X offers a massive ballad with touches of classical brass arranging in its midst.

Snake City North is a powerful and engaging statement from both the Kullhammar-Gulz quartet and its big band mate, proof of the adaptability of both an expansive small group and a tasteful, colorful orchestral horn section. The European tradition of mating a big band and a free bop unit has, thankfully, not gone out of style.

Track Listing: Snake City East Krleksvals Frippes Blues Slow Drop Ruskitoonies McAroonies For X I Sheriffens Klor Bebopalulia

Personnel: Jonas Kullhammar (ts) Torbjrn Gulz (p) Torbjrn Zetterberg (b) Jonas Holgersson (d) and the Norbotten Big Band

Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Moserobie | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


More Articles

Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Coldest Second Yesterday CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Follow Your Heart CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Chicago II CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Flow" CD/LP/Track Review Flow
by Karl Ackermann
Published: August 2, 2016
Read "Buena Vista Social Club" CD/LP/Track Review Buena Vista Social Club
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: March 19, 2016
Read "Blackwater" CD/LP/Track Review Blackwater
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: September 27, 2016
Read "Joyride" CD/LP/Track Review Joyride
by Mark Corroto
Published: June 27, 2016
Read "The Last Remaining Payphone in L.A." CD/LP/Track Review The Last Remaining Payphone in L.A.
by Paul Naser
Published: October 18, 2016
Read "An Untroublesome Defencelessness" CD/LP/Track Review An Untroublesome Defencelessness
by Mark Corroto
Published: July 22, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!