The Swedish jazz collective Jazzagenturen, founded by Pontus de Wolfe, reached deep into their collective souls and stood up to the downsides of the Covid-19 coronavirus early on. This large ensemble entered a studio on April 2nd. Twelve hours later they emerged having recorded fifty songs. The Stockholm Corona Sessions
(Bra Skivor, 2020) are being released in five volumes, spread out through 2020. Gathering worldwide attention due to being both an unprecedented project and superb multi-ranged jazz recordings, Jazzagenturen was not seeking this kind of attention. Simply said, they (like all other musicians) were facing an undetermined gig-less and income-less stretch. This was about feeding their families and paying the rent. It took on a life of its own partially due to the uniqueness of the project, but mostly because the music is both swingin' hot and smolderingly heartfelt. The first volume of nine songs was reviewed in June. Volume Two is reviewed here.
Six striking instrumentals and two original vocal compositions are featured in round two. Both vocals were sequenced to the beginning, with Lina Nyberg
lending the vocal to her own co-write (with Pedro Caentano), "Den some lever far se." Opening her heart and her lungs, Nyberg sings in sentiment for her father. Trumpeter Erik Palmberg
opts to pick up a French horn and illuminates with a vivid and elegant solo. Palmberg also offers enriched counterpoint to Nyberg's vocals.
"Side by Side" (no, not the "ain't got a barrel of money, maybe we're ragged and funny" variety) is a new song composed and crooned by Niklas Land. The tune travels back to the paradise of yesteryear and is again accompanied by pianist Carl Bagge
, bassist Martin Höper
, and drummer Jonas Backman. The trio swings into a fun groove, that Palmberg rides with an emphatic trumpet mute.
The instrumentals bop in the door with the jaunty "Chicken n' Dumplings." A trio romp that features pianist Leo Lindberg
, bassist Kenji Rabson
, and drummer Moussa Fadera
. There-s a real buoyance and continuity here that Lindberg melodically swings though from start to finish.
The same trio then engages in "The Hug." This hypnotic melody is keenly steeped in percussive cadence that drives the dig furiously. Lindberg again solos brightly. The interplay level is high as the trio feeds off each other with ease and delight.
On volume one, Jazzagenturen reimagined a couple of Cedar Walton
pieces. This time they pay homage to Thelonius Monk
with a take on "Hackensack." The sweetness of pure jazz is in play as they glide along seamlessly in levels three and four. A big horn section of baritone saxophonist Fredrik Lindborg
(who also arranged), alto saxophonist Bjorn Jansson, trumpeter Nils Janson, and trumpeter Palmberg create their own impression of Monk's classic. Pianist Fredrik Hermansson
fills the big shoes with aplomb, assisted by the pocket steady rhythm section of bassist Niklas Fernqvist and drummer Konrad Agnas
From something old to something new, "New but Blue" blasts on to the scene. The up-tempo swinger was composed and arranged by Erik Palmberg. The trumpeter indeed leads the way with some crafty note selections. Bassist Hoper pushes the groove with some fine lines, as they are joined again by pianist Bagge and drummer Backman. A jiving quartet, trading licks, makes for one of the top performances on the record. John Coltrane
is revisited next, with a new perspective on "Theme for Ernie." Melancholy piano strains, and brushes are at the forefront of this tender ballad. Lindberg's sensitive piano gait mires in time, as his notes just flow through as a river of feelings. His touch and note selections are superb, as is the bass solo from Rabson.
"We'll Meet Again" is an accurate (with three more volumes to come) and fortified conclusion. The tune is empowered by a stellar sax and trumpet duet from saxophonist Fredrik Lindborg and trumpeter Nils Janson. Both reflective and propellent, the horn section takes wings against the tight rub of pianist Fredrk Hermansson, bassist Niklas Fernqvist, and drummer Konrad Agnas. A dynamic groove and swing brings the record to a taut conclusion.
It made sense to "leave 'em wanting more" and that's exactly what Jazzagenturen did here. The Stockholm Corona Sessions Volume Two
is a bright spot in a time of darkness. The music is terrific. History will record the Covid-19 coronavirus period as a downtrodden time of quarantines, masks, joblessness, social distancing, and, well, boredom. Jazzagenturen's epic undertaking in no way erases any of that. It perhaps, though, writes another chapter in the same book that is uplifting. Early on, these many musicians came together, under the direction of producer Pontus de Wolfe, with both a song and compassion in their hearts. Recording fifty songs in a twelve-hour period took fortitude, drive, and heart. Three qualities that people around the world genuinely need right now.
Den som lever far se; Side by Side; Chicken n' Dumplins; The Hug; Hackensack; New but Blue; Theme for Ernie; We'll Meet Again.