Artistry Jazz Group and Friends: Tribute! (2012)
An absolute gem, featuring some of the best players in Scandinavia in an extremely well thought-out program of music, paying tribute to "musicians and artists who shaped new sounds and ideas." It's the brainchild of independent record producer Torgil Rosenberg and pianist Jan Lundgren.
Three top Swedish musicians, Peter Asplund on trumpet, Klas Lindqvist on alto sax and clarinet, and Janne Bengtsson on flute, join Lundgren's already all-star Artistry group, filling out the sound on selected numbers.
The choice of musicians and composers receiving tribute is highly eclectic, ranging from alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, pianist Horace Silver, trumpeter Miles Davis and big band leader Stan Kenton to singer June Christy, Swedish composer/pianist Nils Lindberg (paired with US bassist Red Mitchell, who lived in Sweden for many years) and composers George Gershwin and Billy Strayhorn.
The album opens with reed multi-instrumentalist Jimmy Giuffre's arrangement of Lee Konitz's marvelous post bop piece, "Palo Alto," on which Lundgren solos superbly. It continues with Mel Powell's quirky "Shirley Steps Out," with reed man Klas Lindqvist taking solo honors.
Vocalist Vivian Buczek is a revelation, displaying full-fledged confidence and a maturity only hinted at in her previous recordings with the group. She performs great versions of Harold Arlen's bittersweet "Last Night When We Were Young" and George Gershwin's "Changing My Tune," switches with consummate ease from Queen of Cool June Christy to Judy Garland, albeit singing the best, bluesiest song in Garland's book, "The Man That Got Away," written by Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin for the 1954 film A Star Is Born.
Buczek does her best with the rather dated "back to nature" lyrics of Lindberg and Mitchell's "As You Are" and turns in a fine wordless vocal on "Undercurrent Blues," by Chico O'Farrillwhose arrangements ushered King of Swing Benny Goodman, somewhat unwillingly, into the bebop era. She also chooses the closer, going for Miles Davis' "Boplicity" and handling Ray Passman and Holli Ross' high-speed "Bebop Lives" lyrics with great aplomb.
Hollywood composer David Raskin's "The Bad And The Beautiful" is one of two outstanding solo outings by Lundgren. The other is a lovely, lingering interpretation of Billy Strayhorn's "Lotus Blossom."
Guitarist Jacob Fischer's solo does wonders for "Fantasy" by Prince of Pretension Stan Kenton (based on a piece by classical composer Maurice Ravel), while Hans Backenroth plays some terrific bass on Horace Silver's "The St. Vitus' Dance."
Only rarely do albums come any better than this.
Track Listing: Palo Alto; Shirley Steps Out; Last Night When We Were Young; Bijou; Up An' Atom; Lost In A Summer Night; The Bad And The Beautiful; Undercurrent Blues; The Man That Got Away; Fantasy; As You Are; The St. Vitus' Dance; Changing My Tune; Lotus Blossom; Boplicity.
Personnel: Jan Lundgren: piano; Vivian Buczek: vocal; Jacob Fischer: guitar; Hans Backenroth: bass; Johan Löfcrantz Ramsay: drums; Peter Asplund: trumpet, flugelhorn; Klas Lindqvist: alto sax, clarinet; Janne Bengtsson: flute.
Record Label: Volenza