With its third recording, The Game, the Magnus Lindgren Quartet has made a jazz album for the everyman. The album’s nine cuts offer something for everyone, a pastiche of styles sure to please fans of jazz’s more traditional forms. The group takes on soul jazz with “Sofia kom hem,” lay out on the advanced hard bop of “Blue Star,” experiment with the exotica of “Ethnomore,” and interpret two standards, “Softly As in a Morning Sunrise” and “Caravan.” This traditionalism is at once the album’s strength and weakness. The quartet shows great skill in navigating the bold rhythmic outlines, the melodic hooks and tautly constructed solos, but it offer few surprises.
”Seven is Heaven,” written by pianist Mathias Algotsson, moves in a sprightly 7/8, with Lindgren showing a rich melodic sense on flute. Algotsson’s solo loosens the song structure without breaking it, and drummer Jonas Holgersson adds subtle percussive swing. A riffing, catchy coda ends the tune tantalizingly.
Lindgren has garnered a number of awards in Sweden for his big band album Paradise Open, and on this album he shows his versatility as a player. He brings gentle shades of color to the compositions with a spectrum of reeds and woodwinds. His tenor sax on “Holyem,” “The Game,” and “Blue Star” has the thick tone and muscular melodic punch of Joe Henderson’s Blue Note recordings. On “Ethnomore” Lindgren overdubs himself on tenor sax, bass clarinet and flute, coloring the Middle Eastern modality, reminding the listener of Yusef Lateef’s humble experiments.
Bassist Fredrik Jonsson gives each tune a strong rhythmic and harmonic backbone with economic lines, like the chanting figure on “When You Go,” or the more propulsive funk of “Sofia kom hem.” He meshes cleanly with Algotsson’s spare comping on “Holyem” and with Holgersson sets up a tight swing on “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise.
The recording of The Game is clean and clear, almost too much so. A little roughing up around the edges, a little more bleeding and atmosphere could have strengthened the mood of the album. As it is, The Game is a refreshing group of tunes, played with precise facility, understated emotion and clear enjoyment. In these days of high abstraction and overwrought intellectual "experiments," we could use a few more dates like this one.
1. Holyem 2. Seven Is Heaven 3. The Game 4. When You Go 5. Ethnomore 6. Softly As In A Morning Sunrise 7. Sofia kom hem 8. Blue Star 9. Caravan
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