Cennet J: Jazzman (2004)
The pervasiveness of the internet for marginalized genres like jazz is a double-edged sword. Good, because a multitude of artists from smaller countries, who would not normally find their way into the ears of listeners abroad, can gain broader exposure. Bad, because that same multitude of artists exist in a far larger playing field where their talents can end up being overwhelmed by the sheer number of fine artists out there. Such is the case with Swedish saxophonist Cennet Jönsson, whose latest quartet record, Jazzman , is a fine contemporary album with hints of history within a purely modern approach. As good as this record is, and hopefully reviews such as this will encourage internet readers from across the globe to visit Kopasetic's web site and check out the disk, the sad reality is that there is so much competition that the album stands an equal chance of being lost in the shuffle.
And that's too bad, because Jönsson has put together a fine quartet, consisting of guitarist Krister Jonsson, bassist Mattias Hjorth and percussionist Peter Nilsson, to interpret a set of original compositions that are thoroughly engaging, with clean grooves, lyrical themes and exciting solos. It's especially interesting to hear Hjorth and Nilsson, last heard on Plunge , where they explore their more purely extemporaneous side, in a more structured context. The sign of a true musician is the ability to fit within any context while still demonstrating a personal voice, and Nilsson in particular succeeds with a style that is somewhat reminiscent of Bill Stewart, but also a little more slap-happy as per some of Joey Baron's work.
Jönsson concentrates mainly on the soprano, although his tenor work on the title track is thoughtful yet passionate and, once the band enters with a modal "So What" kind of feel, he demonstrates a fine ability to construct a solo that tells a real story. Still, it's his soprano work that dominates the set, and along with Dave Liebman he must be one of the few players out there really exploring the instrumental's potential in a post-Coltrane world. Guitarist Jonsson displays a breadth of influences, from John Abercrombie's more melodious linear work to John Scofield's outside harmonic sensibility and Terje Rypdal's overt fusion perspective.
The tunes range from "Happy-go-lucky," which shows how an odd-metered tune in thirteen can be subdivided in different ways, with the first half of the song alternating bars of seven and six, and the second, more funky, half of the tune cycling through bars of four, four and five; to "Ambler," which starts out somewhat abstractly, but ultimately settles into a dark ballad with Jonsson contributing chordal swells that are broadened by liberal use of echo and reverb.
Jazzman deserves to be heard because, while its influences are evident, the end result is something larger, with a more unique voice. The quartet combines the best of the American and European traditions into a whole that is clearly more than the sum of its parts.
Track Listing: Happy-go-lucky; Elinkin; Jazzman; Ambler; 2'nd Way Out; Hund; The Eve
Personnel: Krister Jonsson (guitar), Cennet J