Sometimes self indulgence is worth it. It is not decadence or overt extravagance for the Jonas Kullhammar Quartet to release an eight-CD boxset on the tenth anniversary of their association. In fact, the success of The Half Naked Truth 1998-2008
could result in inquiries into the remainder of the 40 hours of live recordings and session out-takes that were passed over to make up this collection of 66 songs.
The music is that good.
In ten years this quartet has produced five releases; one, Snake City North
, (Moserobie, 2005) with the Norrbotten Big Band. Like most modern musicians, the members play in multiple ensembles. Pianist Torbjörn Gulz
heads his own trio, plus plays with Magnus Broo
and Jonas Holgersson
. Torbjörn Zetterberg
heads up his own Hot Fives group. Leader Jonas Kullhammar
can also be found in Torbjörn Zetterberg Hot 5
, Hector Bingert Latin Lover Big Band
, Nacka Forum
, and many others.
Perhaps Jonas Kullhammar's band is the Swedish equivalent to the Branford Marsalis
. Like Marsalis they are firmly rooted in the muscular sixties sounds of Sonny Rollins
and Booker Ervin
. The band has the inclination to swing hard throughout, which might be why these hours of music bear repetition. They are crowd pleasers, with the live crowds at locations where some of these tracks were recorded, including the Stockholm Jazz Festival and Rochester International Jazz Festival, clearly energized by the music.
Except for a few tracks, most of the compositions get reworked in the various club, festival, and studio sessions found here. The fan favorite "Bebopalulia" is heard five different timesthough, to be fair, two versions are informal dance remixes. The band prefers infectious grooves such as the bebop burners "Horseface" and "Snake City East," two workouts that are covered twice and could easily be mistaken for music made for Blue Note in their heydays of the sixties. Jonas Kullhammar and company have studied their John Coltrane
, Archie Shepp
, and Eddie Harris
They also show their knowledge of rock and roll, favoring a sound not unlike that of the band Traffic
, mining the blues and its hairy grooves on tracks like "Carry on Brother" and "Oh My God/It's Blood." They drop a bit of free music à la Pharoah Sanders
with "Ma Ran" and "Pikki." But mostly it is the brawny music of bebop and its hard bop cousin that thrill here.
As both an introduction to this marvelous quartet or as a completist's treasure, The Half Naked Truth
is a magnificent collection.