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Bohuslan Big Band with Steve Swallow: Swallow Songs

Edward Blanco By

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In 2007, veteran bassist Steve Swallow accepted an invitation to record his music from Goran Levin, Manager of the Bohuslan Big Band, one of the finest jazz orchestras in Sweden. Swallow Songs, with Steve Swallow and The Bohuslan Big Band, is the result of that auspicious invitation, spurred from a prior professional encounter with mutual friend, trumpeter Lew Soloff. Swallow, who is not only recognized as premier bassist but also as a composer and arranger, leads the sixteen-piece BBB through nine hard-driving orchestrations, of which three charts—"Learn To Fly," Do Go On" and "Seventeen Chords"—were penned specifically for this recording. The bassist also provides all of the arrangements except for the blue-chip burner "Eiderdown," where bass trombonist Niclas Rydh does an incredible job.



With respect to "Eiderdown," renowned Swedish pianist and composer Lars Jansson describes the tune in the liner notes as "a standard with a strong, beautiful melody and chord changes which lend themselves to improvisation." It may be the stand out number of the album, featuring saxophonist Alberto Pinton, Rydh and Swallow on measured solos. The lively and brassy "Ballroom" comes out swinging as another favorite, and features lead tenor Johan Borgstrom and fellow tenor Ove Ingemarsson. "Do Go On" is one of the gentler scores, starting out quite softly but then bouncing to a brisk groove for a very pleasant solo from Ingemarsson.

Another piece that makes an impression is the melodic "Belles," with pianist Tommy Kotter's delicate performance and a fine turn from trombonist Karin Hammar. The tune really showcases the band's woodwind and brass sections. Swallow is at his best on the light and mellow opener, "Away," where he leads the music on electric bass, laying down some slow-tempo lines on this rather melancholy tune. He also shines on "Thirty-Five," once again taking the limelight with a sparkling performance on yet another mellow chart.

The sounds of automobile traffic open the finale, "Playing in Traffic" (commissioned by the Harvard Jazz Band)—an aggressive big band number propelled by sturdy play from trumpeter Samuel Olson and tenorist Joakim Rolandsson. As if conveying the death-defying challenges of playing in traffic, the music races with a boisterous and powerful performance from the band, ending in a car-crashing crescendo of sounds. Big band music with a big bang flavor, Steve Swallow and The Bohuslan Big Band more than deliver their share of bursting brass orchestrations on Swallow Songs, a well-proportioned gulping session of high-energy big band music.


Track Listing: Away; Learn To Fall; Ballroom; Do Go On; Eiderdown; Seventeen Chords; Belles; Thirty-Five; Playing In Traffic.

Personnel: Steve Swallow: conductor, electric bass; Lennart Grahn: trumpet, flugelhorn; Staffan Svensson: trumpet, flugelhorn; Samuel Olsson: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jan Eliasson: trumpet, flugelhorn; Johan Borgstrom: saxophones, flute; Joakim Rolandsson: saxophones, flute; Ove Ingemarsson: saxophones, flute; Mikael Karlsson: saxophones, flute; Alberto Pinton: saxophones, flute; Bjorn Samuelsson: trombone; Christer Olofsson: trombone; Karin Hammar: trombone; Niclas Rydh: trombone; Tommy Kotter: piano; Yasuhito Mori: acoustic bass; Andres Kjellberg: drums.

Title: Swallow Songs | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Vara Konserthus


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