THE SWEDISH JAZZ KINGS
Eaglemountain Records, TCD 20009, 11 tracks 74min 2000
Mississippi Blues, Chattanooga Stomp, Santa Claus Blues, Weary Blues, Texas Moaner, Papa Dip, Melancholy Blues, Ory's Creole Trombone, Georgia Bo-Bo, My Sweet Lovin' Man, Old Fashioned Love
We don't get much good jazz in New Zealand, so when the buzz goes around that an overseas band is in the offering one tends to get interested. I hadn't heard of The Swedish Jazz Kings and, as the hand out described their music as 'Dixieland', I was nervous. I contacted some mates in Scandinavia and they reassured me that I would enjoy the music. So I bought tickets for the wife and I. It was well worth the investment. As soon as the first break came up I was down the front buying a CD. I picked this one as I had been very taken with the band's interpretation of 'Old Fashioned Love'. Originally recorded at two live session s in 1994, this CD was put out 'due to popular demand' and I can understand why.
Founded in 1985 they recorded a 'A Tribute to Clarence Williams', they used the name Swedish Jazz Kings in honour of Williams' own Jazz Kings band.. The Swedish Jazz Kings play what they describe as 'Classic Jazz' (Chicago-New Orleans style jazz of the 20's and 30's). To my ear they sound like a cross between Jelly Roll Morton's Red Hot Peppers and Louise Armstrong's Hot Five and Hot Seven. I suspect the link to Armstrong's early recording bands comes from trumpet/cornet player Bent Persson, who is very much in the early Armstrong mould. Reeds are supplied by Tomas Örnberg who switches during tunes from clarinet to curved soprano sax (which in his hands seems like a kid's toy - till he blows on it that is). On this CD Englishman Roy Williams (Big R) guests on trombone. I had wondered if he would fit, as some of his recent CDs have shewn him getting rather mainstream/dance bandish, but I needn't have worried. The band lacks drums and this makes the role of the banjo player crucial. In Olle Nyman they have a gem. Add Bo Juhlin on sousaphone (not on the NZ tour unfortunately) and guests Frans Sjostrom on bass sax and Dutchman Joep Peeters on piano and you have a band well worth listening too.
One thing that really struck me was that the bass sax is used very intelligently, not as a substitute tuba. Despite being warned by the lady who sold this CD to me that it was live and thus not as good as the studio recorded CDs, it is remarkably well balanced. The poor old piano in so many live recordings get forgotten and you get to listen to the banjo and bass plonking away while the piano break is supposed to be on. Not on this CD, here the piano is given the level it deserves. Talking of recording levels, an auto volume leveller was used on the recording. It doesn't shew until the audience deservedly applauded the band and then it cuts in. At first it is disconcerting, but it is fine once to get to know what to expect.
This is an excellent CD put out by an excellent band playing in the classic jazz style. My only problem with the CD is that I now find I have an addiction to their version of 'Texas Moaner' and am losing friends by continually replaying it. I look forward to hearing more of The Swedish Jazz Kings material and just hope that one day they will return to NZ.
THE SWEDISH JAZZ KINGS
THE SWEDISH JAZZ KINGS FEATURING ROY WILLIAMS
Opus 3, CD 19404, 14 tracks 75min 1996
Shake It & Break It, Jazzin' Babies Blues, Mr. Jess, Gulf Coast Blues, Sugar Foot Strut, Cake Walkin' Babies, Weatherburn Blues, How Come You Do Me, Potato Head Blues, It's Right Here For You, Buddy Burton's Jazz, Melancholy Blues, Chattanooga Stomp, Moody Melody
Well, if I wanted the Swedish Jazz King's CD 'Live' for 'Old fashioned Love', I wanted this one for 'Potato Head Blues', which I had the pleasure of hearing them play live in Hamilton, NZ.
This CD contains more sweet jazz from the boy's from Stockholm with Brit guest trombone player Roy Williams. The sleeve notes mention Roy's many years with the Alex Welsh band, but my memories are of him in the 60s with Terry Lightfoot's New Orleans Jazzmen. Roy is the odd man out in the frontline. If you listen to the aforesaid 'Potato Head Blues' you can pick Bent Persson's Louis Armstrong traits and Johnny Dodd's influence on clarinettist Tomas Örnberg, but Roy sounds nothing like John Thomas (and even less like Kid Ory!) when he recorded the number as part of Armstrong's Hot Seven. Roy is more Jack Teagarden to my ear. Having said that, he fits in so well and the SJK are not an early Armstrong 'clone' band.
So, what type of band are they? Well they describe their style as 'Classic jazz', but normally this term is used for jazz recorded between 1918 and say 1932 (the accepted cut off year is open to debate) and covers all styles of traditional jazz recorded in that period. I have always known the style of jazz they play as 'Hot Jazz'. This means that they play a more structured ensemble style of early jazz, rather than the ensemble-string of solos-ensemble you get with Chicago jazz. The best know exponent was Jelly Roll Morton and his Red Hot Peppers (or if you are from the BBC: JR Morton - they having sussed what Jelly Roll means!). Today you need to listen to West Jesmond Rhythm Kings or the Swedish Jazz Kings, if you want to hear it at its best. Although my number one love is the European interpretation of New Orleans jazz, a-la Ken Colyer, and now played to near perfection by Göta River, New Orleans Delight and the Savannah's, I have a weakness for Hot Jazz. Oft I have bemoaned the lack of good bands playing in that style. The Swedish Jazz Kings easily fill that role.
The CD contains a selection of tracks from the 20s with one from the 30s, one from the 40s and a new one 'Weatherburn Blues' written by Brit Keith Durston, one of the three pianists guesting with the band and in memory of the late Ron Weatherburn, who was a fine jazz pianist I enjoyed listening to.
The standard of playing is brilliant as is the engineering quality of the recordings, which were made during one 1994 session and three 1996 sessions. My only negative comment is that Olle Nyman should have stuck to the banjo on all the tracks as the guitar, to my ear, lacks the drive needed by a drumless band.
Well I now have two CDs by SJK. All that remains is to set out to get me some more! If you haven't anything by this band, then you are missing out on a very pleasurable experience and you should rectify this immediately by contacting Opus on http://www.opus3records.com or Nalle's Jazz Shop .
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