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I’ve nothing against suites, extended or otherwise. I ask only two things of them — that they include (a) some sort of comprehensible melodic structure and (b) sturdy rhythmic components (in other words, that they swing). I’m happy to report that Mikael Råberg’s four–movement Suite Extended for soprano, big band and symphony orchestra easily satisfies both requirements, as does his Ebu–Suite for big band and string quartet, which helps fill out this generously timed disc (along with the ten–minutes–plus “Rhythm and Riffs”). Råberg’s musical vision is comprehensive, and he blends seamlessly the disparate elements of big band, symphony orchestra, vocalist and string quartet to produce buoyant and graceful works that are always closely wedded to their Jazz roots. Those who prefer their Jazz pure and unadulterated are invited to proceed directly to “Rhythm and Riffs” for a textbook lesson in the fine art of big–band fireworks. All others may wish to start at the very beginning (a very good place to start) with the Suite Extended, conducted by Hans Ek and featuring beguiling soprano Linda Pettersson who sings (in Swedish) on each of the first three movements. English translations of the lyrics are given in the disc’s booklet. Other soloists aren’t identified, but they include trumpet on the breezy first movement, tenor on the andante third, piano (obviously Daniel Karlsson) on the assertive, fleet–footed fourth. The five–movement Ebu–Suite, composed in 1998 and recorded in 2000 with Jan Levander conducting, opens with the loping “Blue Circle,” on which a crisp trumpet solo leads to some engaging passages by the string quartet, vibraphonist Jonas Kock and baritone Alberto Pinton. Karlsson’s piano steers the way into the more robust second movement, which features an expressive alto backed by muscular brass and strings and a nimble solo by Kock. String quartet and alto are showcased on the balladic third movement, brass, vibes, flute and piano on the buoyant, Latinized fourth. After a lustrous opening passage by the string quartet, the suite scurries to its conclusion on the wings of astute solos by trombone and bass, vigorous statements by brass and reeds and steadfast support from its enterprising rhythm section. The aptly named “Rhythm and Riffs” is pure fun, riding sharp ensemble work and blazing solos by trombone, bass clarinet and trumpet to its hair–raising conclusion. A delectably “suite” slice of Swedish pastry.
Contact: STIM / Svensk Musik (Swedish Music Center), Box 27327, SE–102 54, Stockholm, Sweden. Phone +46 8 783 88 00. E–mail email@example.com; web site, www.mic.stim.se
Track Listing: Suite Extended (for soprano, big band and symphony orchestra)
I love jazz because I enjoy the freedom.
I was first exposed to jazz when I was 17.
I met Cedar Walton at a concert in San Paulo.
The best show I ever attended was Helio Jambao trio.
The first jazz record I bought was Witchcraft by George Benson.
My advice to new listeners is listen to the old school first.