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Sean Nowell: Stockholm Swingin'

Bruce Lindsay By

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Sean Nowell has lent his talents to a diverse array of bands including Travis Sullivan's Bjorkestra and his own Kung-Fu Masters, working across numerous musical styles. On Stockholm Swingin', the tenor saxophonist's third Posi-Tone release, he stays in recognizably straight-ahead territory, bringing his impressively wide-ranging and imaginative tenor sound to a live quintet recording from the Swedish capital's Glenn Miller Café in November, 2010.

Nowell and drummer Joe Abba, a longtime musical collaborator, are joined by a trio of Swedish performers: guitarist Frederik Olsson; bassist Lars Ekman; and the exciting teenage pianist, Leo Lindberg. The quintet sounds cool, confident and swinging on a mix of standards and originals.

The set opens with the relaxed shuffle of McCoy Tyner's "Blues On The Corner," an easygoing number characterized by warm and melodic solos from Nowell and Lindberg. Duke Ellington's "Amad" starts with a slinky groove from Ekman and Abba, with Lindberg adding to the feel with some well-placed chords as Nowell and Olsson contribute a deftly-played melody line. The third classic tune is a smoky, early hours version of Billy Strayhorn's balladic "Chelsea Bridge," showcasing Nowell's evocative tenor sound. "Ack Värmeland, Du Sköna" has an immediate familiarity to it—but then it's better known as "Dear Old Stockholm," recorded by a host of jazz stars from Stan Getz and Miles Davis to Paul Chambers. Nowell is again in fine form, building a dynamic solo.

The originals sit neatly alongside the more established tunes. Nowell's "NY Vibe" has, as its title suggests, a more up-tempo, urgent, feel than most of the album, although Olsson's fluid solo does bring a touch of calm after Nowell's more frenetic tenor. Lindberg and Olsson's "Sweet Night" is another up-tempo number, gaining its drive from Abba's sparky percussion and featuring Ollsson with another bright, melodic guitar solo. Abba's "Walking The Path" is an impressive tune, filled with melodic and rhythmic ideas that give the number a more spiritual vibe than the rest of the collection.

This is a beautifully-crafted album, with fine contributions from each of the quintet's members. The quality of the live recording is also superb—congratulations to producer Marc Free and engineer Nick O'Toole for achieving such a great sound, capturing the mood of a live gig with the acoustic clarity of a studio recording.

Track Listing: Blues On The Corner; Ack Värmeland, Du Sköna; Harlem Woman; Amad; NY Vibe; Chelsea Bridge; Sweet Night; Walking The Path.

Personnel: Sean Nowell: tenor saxophone; Fredrik Olsson: guitar; Leo Lindberg: piano; Lars Ekman: bass; Joe Abba: drums.

Title: Stockholm Swingin' | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Posi-Tone Records

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