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Nils Landgren: Unbreakable

Chris M. Slawecki By

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The very first album released by German progressive label ACT Records (in 1994) was by the Funk Unit led by trombone master Nils Landgren, recorded Live in Stockholm that summer with Maceo Parker as special guest. Other Funk Unit releases for ACT Records include Paint It Blue (1996), the trombonist's tribute to composer/saxophonist Cannonball Adderley with Randy Brecker, Michael Brecker, drummer Bernard Purdie and other guests; and Funky Abba (2004), Landgren's Funk Unit tribute to the legendary Swedish popsters, graced by not only reclusive pianist Benny Andersson's blessing but himself on piano.

Unbreakable was recorded at famous Atlantis Studios in Stockholm, where ABBA recorded many of their hit records. Randy Brecker and Tim Hagans guest star on trumpet, with guitarist Ray Parker Jr, throwing down as a special Funk Unit member just for this occasion. Landgren is especially fond of its title: "Throughout all our years together, there have been countless moments of great joy and laughter, but also times when we had to fight to stay on the right track. Remembering the highs always helped us to face the lows and to get back up on our feet. The love for the music and for each other has always won and always will. We are unbreakable."

Parker's rhythm guitar hook slices open the title track and then drummer Robert Ikiz nails the funk groove down, Landgren blows funk and fire through his trombone and the rest of the Unit tighten up a Tower of Power horn-stoked groove that's clean, pristine, and slippery as vasoline. Their bouncy romp through "Just a Kiss Away," written by New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint, sounds like a musical love letter from Sweden to the deep American south—earthy but slick and colored in shades of country and blues.

"Old School" gloriously melts form into content, old-school funk extolling the virtues of old-school funk with guitar and drums scattering the rhythm like flower petals beneath the horn players' dancing feet. "Rockin' After Midnight" (Marvin Gaye) kicks out the all-star jams, with Parker's itchy rhythmic hook and Brecker's trumpet solo—processed in electronics but gestated in jazz—shining out from an ensemble that rumbles like musical thunder.

PS: Bail out before the closing track, even though you'll miss a nice Parker guitar solo. Nils, if you're reading: After an hour of taut, tight funk, why would you need to drop faux ghetto patois into "Bow Down" to sound cool? "You like to think that you was all that/ I guess you lied 'cause you know that you're whack," in a sexagenarian voice of any gender, ethnicity, or persuasion, is embarrassing for both speaker and listener. This set was plenty good without it.

Track Listing: Unbreakable; Just a Kiss Away; Get Down on the Funk; Friday Night; Stars in Your Eyes; Rockin' After Midnight; Soulchild; Old School; NLFU Funk; Bow Down.

Personnel: Petter Bergander: keyboards; Randy Brecker: trumpet; Tim Hagans: trumpet; Robert Ikiz: drums; Nils Landgren: trombone, vocals; Ray Parker, Jr.: guitar, vocals; Andy Pfeiler: guitar, vocals; Magnum Coltrane Price: bass, keyboards, vocals; Jonas Wall: horn arrangements, saxophone.

Title: Unbreakable | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: ACT Music

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