Press about Swedish Azz

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Jan Granlie, Salt Peanuts, about Swedish azz at Molde jazz festival 2014
Og jeg sier det først som sist: For et band! For en respekt! For en kreativ kraft! Her møter vi fem fyrer fra Sverige og Østerrike som behandler den svenske jazzskatten med stor respekt, samtidig som de fornyer den og utvider den til noe helt nytt. Ved hjelp av, i hovedsak, Per-Åke Holmlanders arrangementer, gjør de låter som Lars Gullins legendariske » Fedja» og et knippe andre godbiter en oppgradering til 2014 ingen andre har tenkt tanken på å gjøre tidligere.
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The Swedish azz record ‘azz appeal’ was elected third best jazz record of 2011 by the biggest Swedish national newspaper Dagens Nyheter

Swedish Azz, Vienna Echoraum, 28 February 2010. By viennesewaltz:
Fascinating and highly unusual evening of not-quite-free jazz from ace Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, three of his fellow countrymen and Viennese ringer Dieter Kovacic. The deal here is a contemporary take on Swedish jazz of the 50s and 60s, transplanting that musicÕs strong melodic lines and sense of lyricism into the context of improvisation and electronic soundscaping. It could have ended up as a right old mess, but in the event it was a thoroughly convincing performance, due in no small part to the exhilarating urgency of GustafssonÕs saxophone work. In marked contrast to the long, sweeping improvs we normally see from Gustafsson, these pieces were short, tightly focused and – at least in part – notated. The saxophonist took the trouble to introduce each piece, carefully and humorously introducing the composer and his place in the history of Swedish jazz. It was clear that the group love this music and were there, more than anything else, to pay homage to it. Judging by the intentness with which Gustafsson, tuba player Per-ke Holmlander and vibraphone player Kjell Nordeson were studying their music stands, the notated elements were important to the overall structure of each piece. As a result, the pieces tended to begin steadily, with the warm tones of the vibraphone bringing colour and light into the room. It wasn’t ever long, though, before the group ceased to rely on their sheet music and ventured into the realm of pure improvisation, with Gustafsson’s sax playing as wild and torrential as it is in The Thing and Sonore. Taking the occasional break from this vein-bursting activity, he manipulated various bits of table-top electronics to produce clouds of unforgiving noise. Kovacic’s own interventions on turntable and electronics unfolded slowly and unnervingly, while Nordeson’s vibraphone weaved miraculous patterns around this stormy weather. I still don’t get the point of that missing J, though.

Stef at

The album has the look and feel of a jazz album of the fifties : a vinyl production, the size of a 78 rpm disk (but played at 33 rpm), including the great stylish artwork and back cover reminiscent of the period. The music is a celebration of the Swedish jazz masters of the 50s, who were quite influenced by the cool West Coast jazz. The album contains three compositions, one by pianist Lars Werner and two by baritone saxophonist Lars Gullin. Their music is played first reverently, with full melody and rhythm, but then the band shifts the whole thing into a modern package, including live electronics. The band is Mats Gustafsson on alto, baritone saxes and live electronics, Kjell Nordeson on vibraphone, dieb13 on turntables, Per-Ake Holmlander on tuba and cimbasso, and Erik Carlsson on drums and selected percussion. The first piece, ÒDrottningholm BalladÓ starts like a slow ballroom dance, with repetitive melody, all sweet and nice, then it turns into a kind of nightmarish noise context. The second piece, ÒDannyÕs DreamÓ has the opposite structure : out of noise and unrelated sounds, the melody arises, followed by the rhythm, then the whole thing fizzles away at the end. ÒSilhouetteÓ, the last piece, again starts with weird sounds, piercing sometimes, out of which the beautiful and sweet melody emerges, played by Gustafsson and Nordeson, wonderfully capturing the sound of the times, albeit hesitant and with a question mark, including the gimmicky repetition as if the needle got stuck somewhere in the middle of the piece, before the electronics take over completely, dark and gloomy, yet it ends again with sax and vibes playing the theme, all soft and sweet. I am not an electronics fan, but it works in this context : the open and free interpretation of the music, together with the noise element creates a great contrast and tension with the original material, which is by definition part of the fiftiesÕ vision of the unencumbered, optimistic and worriless lifestyle of affluence and personal enjoyment. The more critical, more pessimistic and world-conscious attitude of todayÕs musicians works as great counterweight to the original attitude. Yet the great thing is that they do not destroy the original, quite to the contrary, they lift it to a higher, contemporary level.

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