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Stockholm Jazz Orchestra: Today

Jack Bowers By

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Before proceeding, three cheers and a hearty round of applause are in order, as Today, the fifteenth album recorded by the impressive Stockholm Jazz Orchestra, helps mark the thirtieth anniversary of one of Scandinavia's most celebrated big bands. This truly is an ensemble with no discernible weaknesses: sharp soloists in almost every chair, a remarkable adeptness to blend as a unit, and, above all, an unequivocal commitment to the music, much of which has been written and / or arranged by members (or former members) of the orchestra.

The SJO, whose template appears to be New York City's esteemed Vanguard Jazz Orchestra (which also recently celebrated a landmark anniversary, its fiftieth), sprints from the starting blocks with former member Hakan Brostrom's buoyant flag-waver, "Under the Surface," whose acrobatic solos are by trombonist Bertil Strandberg, soprano Johan Horlen (now with Germany's WDR Big Band), guitarist Ola Bengtsson and the ensemble's superlative drummer, Jukkis Uotila. Horlen wrote (and Rich DeRosa arranged) the graceful bossa "Kwartier Lateng," on which Horlen solos nimbly (on alto) with bassist Martin Sjostedt. Here, as elsewhere, the spirit of the Vanguard Orchestra's co-founder, the late trumpeter Thad Jones, is pervasive, as is that of the orchestra's former chief arranger, Bob Brookmeyer.

The other compositions by members of the orchestra are "Do We Dance" and "Home" (tenor Karl-Martin Almqvist), "Reborn by the Blues" (alto Fredrik Kronkvist), "Flytten" (trumpeter Magnus Broo) and the bustling finale, "Oh Shit Aha" (tenor Robert Nordmark). "The Oracle" was written by pianist Joey Calderazzo and arranged by Sjostedt, the ballad "In This Moment" by pianist (and Vanguard Jazz Orchestra music director) Jim McNeely. Almqvist's sinuous tenor solo on the easygoing "Home" is a pleasure to hear, as is the terse commentary by pianist Daniel Tilling who sparkles again with Broo on "In This Moment," and with Kronkvist and Sjostedt on "Reborn by the Blues." Almqvist, a longtime member of the SJO, has since moved on as well, to the Danish Radio Big Band. If "Oh Shit Aha" (which, it is hoped, has another meaning in Swedish) is a guidepost, the SJO has found a comparably well-spoken soloist in Nordmark. The other soloists on "Aha" are guitarist Bengtsson and baritone Fredrik Lindborg.

While longevity doesn't always equal improvement, here's one case in which it does, and decidedly so. The SJO, which plays "younger" than its age, has come a long way in thirty years (almost a millennium in big-band parlance), and the future seems brighter than ever.

Track Listing: Under the Surface; Reborn By the Blues; Do We Dance; In This Moment; Flytten; The Oracle; Home; Kwartier Lateng; Oh Shit Aha.

Personnel: Fredrik Noren: trumpet; Karl Olandersson: trumpet; Gustavo Bergalli: trumpet; Magnus Broo: trumpet; Nils Jansson: trumpet (1-5, 7-9); Johan Horlen: alto, soprano sax, flute, clarinet; Fredrik Kronkvist: alto, soprano sax, flute; Karl-Martin Almqvist: tenor sax, flute, clarinet; Robert Nordmark: tenor sax, clarinet; Fredrik Lindborg: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Peter Dahlgren: trombone; Bertil Strandberg: trombone; Urban Wiborg: trombone (1-5, 7-9); Magnus Wiklund: trombone (6); Karin Hammar: trombone (6); Kristoffer Siggsedt: bass trombone (1-5, 7-9); Anders Wiborg: bass trombone (6); Daniel Tilling: piano; Ola Bengtsson: guitar (1-5, 7-9); Martin Sjostedt: bass; Jukkis Uotila: drums.

Title: Today | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Do Music Records

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