Young Fredrik Nordström (25 or 26 when this album was recorded last year) seems to be Sweden’s answer to America’s bumper crop of fast–rising saxophone stars (Josh Redman, Chris Potter, Ravi Coltrane, Eric Alexander, Mark Turner and so on), and that ain’t bad. Technically, at least, he’s on a par with any of them; his conceptual framework, on the other hand, needs more work if he wishes (as surely he does) to rise above the madding crowd. Right now, Nordström sounds too much like everyone else in the catalog to leave a lasting impression. He does, however, show great promise, and a few years from now could be a highly regarded performer, at least in Sweden. Meanwhile, we can enjoy Nordström’s maiden voyage and note the signs and portents that point toward future stardom. One thing Nordström is willing to do is take chances, which is as apparent in his writing as in his playing (all of the compositions and arrangements on Urgency
are his). He plays games with tempo, rhythm and harmony, using each of those elements to keep the listener off–balance but intrigued by what may come next. That he’s sometimes unable to deliver on his promises is a blemish that time will no doubt erase. When it comes to improvising, Nordström skirts the edges of dissonance but keeps one foot in the more conventional post–bop idiom, never quite abandoning such early influences as Bird, Dexter Gordon and (we would guess) “pre–free” Trane, Joe Henderson, Michael Brecker and others. Nordström uses a brass choir (two trumpets, two trombones) on six of nine tracks to flesh out his core group (Ståhl, Augustson, Rundqvist) and lend his compositions more body and color. What they could use is more charisma, as none lingers in the memory for more than a moment or two. In other words, they are more serviceable than striking. Ståhl, a forceful soloist, is present on every selection but “October,” a ballad on which Nordström’s probing tenor shepherds Augustson and Rundqvist (each of whom is a superlative accompanist and companion) through the autumn leaves. “October” is followed not by November but by “Green Wind,” a saucy swinger with splendid solos by Nordström, Rundqvist and trumpeter Magnus Broo that ends the session. Hardly a benchmark album but one that opens the door on what could be a long and successful career.
Contact:Dragon Records, P.O. Box 4068, SE–102 62 Stockholm, Sweden. Website, www.dragonrecords.se; e–mail email@example.com