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GOTA RIVER JAZZMEN

GATHER AT THE RIVER

GRJCD 02 1998, 15 tracks 72 minutes

Shall We Gather At The River, Old Rugged Cross, In The Sweet Bye And Bye, My Life Will Be Sweeter Some Day, Oh I Want See Him, It Is No Secret, Where He Leads Me, Travel A Long In The Sunshine, He Touched Me, Mary Wore A Golden Chain, Lead Me Savior, Higher Ground, Take Your Burden To The Lord, What A Friend We Have In Jesus, No More.

Well, praise the Lord! At last I have one over my cyber-mate Bengt. I have found, in his own hometown of Gothenburg, a CD of stunning jazz, which he has not got yet! Gota River Jazzmen are one of Gothenburg's leading jazz bands, and they are frequent players in the churches of Sweden. This album, is in fact recorded in the Ravlanda parish hall. Although this recording venue gives the CD a "live" feel, it has eliminated the, at times excessive, echo that normally typifies recordings made in a Church. Of the tunes on the album, many are favourite gospel numbers played by traditional jazz bands, but others, whilst familiar to Churchgoers, are not normally part of the jazz repertoire. It is very difficult to pull out one of the tunes as being most memorable, as in fact I find them all to be beautifully played by a very well balanced band. In the same way I find it very difficult to single out any of the musicians for mention, as they are all noteworthy. There is Lars Ehnstrom, playing a trombone as full-bodied as a real ale. Esbjorn Olsson playing a lead trumpet as crisp as cold cider (though his excellent mute is perhaps nearer to that of mulled ale). Whilst Sverker Nystrom has a clarinet as sharp and soaring as the finest Rhenish white wine. Playing a rolling piano is Ingemar Wagerman who, together with the rest of the rhythm section, Goran Mooler on banjo, Bertil Bostrom double bass, and Hans Asberg drums, provide the solid rock on which the band is founded.

I would just like to say that: "My Life Will Be Sweeter Some Day", when "In The Sweet Bye and Bye", after I have had to, "Travel Along In The Sunshine", and finally reached the "Higher Ground" I will, "Gather at the (Gota) River", with me old mate Bengt and eventually got hear this band live. If not here, then when this world is "No More".

Honestly, joking apart, this is one wonderful CD that should be in everyone's collection.

The above can be bought from: http://listen.to/gotariver

 


GOTA RIVER JAZZMEN

APPLE BLOSSOM TIME

GRJCD 03, 1999, 15 tracks, 73 min

Bougaluse Strut, Hesitating Blues, I'll Be With You In Apple Blossom Time, All The Wonders You Gave Me, One Sweet Letter From You, Buddy's Habbit, Jealous, Out In The Cold Again, Climax rag, Just A Closer Walk With Thee, My Old Kentucy Home, I'm Alone Because I Love You, Corrine Corrina, My Bucket's Got A Hole in It

Another gem from this beautiful Swedish jazz band. Whilst this CD contains many jazz standards, it also has many little recorded tracks too, such as: 'Jealous', 'Out In The Cold Again' and 'I'm Alone Because I love You'. All are wonderfully played, especially, 'Hesitating Blues' (? 298 Blues), which may well be the definitive version. As I was listening to the Ken Colyer standard, 'One Sweet Letter From You', I was struck by how much reedsman, Sverker Nystrom, sounded like a young Sammy Rimmington. In fact, the more I play the CD, the more the band reminds me of the early 60's Rimmington/Cole Ken Colyer's Jazzmen. Many of today's New Orleans style jazz bands claim to play in the Colyer style, and oft reinforce this claim by issuing 'In Tribute' albums. The Gota River Jazzmen have never made this claim, but, apart from the Ken Colyer Trust Jazz band, they get the nearest to capturing the feel and New Orleans empathy that The Gov'nor had. They display the same harmonic unity and sympathy for the other band members' playing that the fulltime Colyer bands had. However, when it comes to singing, no matter whose voice it is, the sound is nearer to that of the raucous Bon Wallis!

My only regret about this CD is that it will have only limited distribution, and thus, the band will never get the recognition they so truly deserve.

The above can be bought from: http://listen.to/gotariver

 


GOTA RIVER JAZZMEN

AND MY HEARTS IN NEW ORLEANS

GRJCD 01, 1997, 11 tracks, 67 min

Algiers Strut, Does Jesus Care?, Blue Bells Goodbye, Burgundy Street Blues, Girl Of My Dreams, Everywhere You Go, Trog's Blues, Shake It Break It, SeeSee Rider, Shake It Break It, In The Upper Garden, Lou-easy-an-i-a.

I suppose it was only time before my cyber jazz mate, Bengt from Gothenburg got his own back. You see, although he haunts the jazz clubs and events in his own city, I beat him to the Gota River Jazzmen! Well, now he has got his own back by getting hold of their first CD, which I have not been able to obtain. Fortunately he like to crow about how good Swedish jazz is, so he has sent me a copy of the CD as a gloating birthday present. God bless you Bengt, even if your motives were to rub my nose into the fact that Sweden has a booming traditional jazz scene whist we here in New Zealand continue to sink into obscurity.

Obscurity is the one thing that worries me about the GRJB. How can this world class band get greater recognition? In the 50s they would have been stars in Europe, in the early 60s they would have been making hit records and featuring on TV throughout Britain and the Continent. In The 90s? World famous in Gothenburg I am afraid.

From the first note of the stomping, 'Algiers Strut', to the final note of the swinging, 'Lou-easy-an-i-a, the GRJB hold your ear. I refuse to nominate a favourite track, but the rolling piano of Ingemar Wagerman on 'Does Jesus Care', makes me regret that he doesn't feature more extensively. The soaring clarinet of Sverker Nystrom on the George Lewis number, 'Burgundy Street Blues', must be mentioned, as must the fine bow played double bass of Bertil Bostrom on…….oh forget it. I will be here all night. Just buy the CD yourself and try and find something you can't compliment on this CD. I bet you can't!

The above can all be bought from: http://listen.to/gotariver


THE OTHER SIDE OF TOWN

GOTA RIVER JAZZMEN

GRJCD04 2000 14 tracks 66 min

Panama, Now Is The Hour, I Have A Friend - A Precious Friend, Mobile Stomp, Dallas Blues, Yaaka Hula Hickey Dula, My Happiness, Hindustan, Far Away Blues, South, In My Heart There Is A Yearning, Ting-A-Ling, On The Other Side Of Town, Get Out Of Here

The Vikings are back; assaulting your emotions and compelling you to give them your money!

I have a great affection and admiration for this Swedish band. From the first CD of theirs that I got hold of I have eagerly awaited the coming of the northern summer and the release of their annual offering of superb jazz.

As always with the Gota River Jazzmen, they have given us an album that is a mixture of well known jazz tunes and the more obscure numbers, and this time reedsman Sverker Nystrom gets to cut loose a bit more often with his alto sax. Sverker is an unusual reedsman in that he changes his style of playing to match the reed instrument he is using. Too many reedsmen have only one style; whilst it suits one of the instruments, it fails to cope with the interpretive needs of the others. But all this band are skilled players, as you will hear when, after handing over your Danegeld, you get your copy. If your local record store can't help, contact the band direct via their Web site http://listen.to/gotariver .

It was my happiness to listen to this CD but, as the phone is now going ting-a-ling, now is the hour to get out of here. Seriously; this is a seriously good CD that you really do need to own


SWEDISH HYMNS

GÖTA RIVER JAZZMEN

GÖTA RIVER JAZZ GRJCD 05 2001 16 tracks 69 min

Parleporten, Jesus For Varlden Givit Sitt Liv, Medan Allting Ler Och Blommar, Nar Morgonen Kommer, Guds Vandringsman, Harlighetens Morgon, Min Gud Jag Sjunker Ner, Lat Mig Borja Med Dig, Nu Ar Jag Nojd Och Glader, Lamna Dig Helt At Jesus, Skall Det Bli Nagra Stjarnor, Bred Dina Vida Vingar, O Sallhet Stor, Blott En Dag, Frojdas Vart Sinne, Tack Min Gud

This is one of the most beautiful jazz CDs that I have ever heard. I know that 'beautiful' and 'jazz' don't often go together, but in this case I can think of no other word to use. The Göta River Jazzmen have produced some memorable CDs in the past, and they have even produced a CD of gospel tunes before, so why is this one so special? Well, not only are the band truly inspired (and as it is a CD of hymns, dare one say by the Holy Spirit?), but the subject matter is entirely new. I defy you to find any of these tunes on anyone else's album.

I just can't stop playing the CD. Not only do I find the music fascinating and completely incapable of being anticipated, but the band is on its best form ever taking them from being one of Europe's best to one of the world's best. I know that I am waffling, but they have completely blown me away with this one. Today most 'pop' or 'rock' artists use only material they have penned themselves (it increases their income considerably); an unfortunate phenomena as 99.999% are incompetent in the art. Jazz, on the other hand, tends to rely on using the same 500 tunes in slightly different arrangements. I have been known to buy a jazz CD just to get a tune that I haven't heard before. This CD gives me 16 of them!

In earlier reviews I have described the bandsmen, so I won't go through that exercise again; but as a band, how best to describe them? Well, if Ken Colyer had retained the band he had in 1953 with Chris Barber, Monty Sunshine, Lonnie Donegan et al and matured it then this is what they would have sounded like I am sure. Each of the musos has the skill and talent to play solo when appropriate, but it is as a whole that they come together so well.

This CD is one that you must have: did you hear that? YOU MUST HAVE IT! Go straight away to http://listen.to/gotariver, check the CD out and then buy it.

Straight away, go on, I am waiting!


GOTA RIVER JAZZMEN

THOUGHT I HEARD BUDDY BOLDEN PLAY

GRJCD-06 2003 17 tracks 75 min

MAKIN’ RUNS, A BIRD IN A GILDED CAGE, FROG LEGS RAG, MAKE ME A PALLET ON THE FLOOR, DON’T GO ‘WAY NOBODY, NEARER MY GOD TO THEE, TI-NA-NA, OLD OAKEN BUCKET, ANY RAGS, I’M WEARING MY HEART AWAY FOR YOU, IDA SWEET AS APPLE CIDER, 2:19 BLUES, INDIAN SAGWA, SWEET ADELINE, FUNKY BUTT, ALL THE GIRLS GO CRAZY, HOME SWEET HOME

There are few artists that I have such implicit trust in that I buy their albums blind and know that I will not be disappointed and will enjoy all the tracks thereon. In the world of pop I would list only, The Beatles (just don’t mention The White Album – I SAID DON’T MENTION THE WHITE ALBUM!) and Suzi Quatro. Top of my list in the jazz world are Gota River. Every album of theirs contains beautifully played New Orleans style jazz, a number of little or unknown tunes and high recording standards. I know many will be shouting out ‘What about The Guv’nor, Ken Colyer?’ I have no problems with Ken’s consistent quality and constancy of style, but I would point my finger at some of the efforts that have been put on the market by well meaning souls who recorded Ken and his band using a cheap battery powered mini-recorder and a baked bean tin and string microphone. I have some shockers of that ilk in my own collection.

Gota River have always either had total control over their recordings, or have worked with others with similar high standards and thus, their superb playing has never been let down by the recordings. This album consists of tracks reportedly played by the legendary, or should that be pseudo mythical, jazz figure, Buddy Bolden. Do they sound like him? No one will ever be able to say for, although legend has it that there are some wax cylinder recordings somewhere (no doubt guarded by a fire breathing dragon that lies on the top of its horde), no recordings of his have ever been found.

Having polished the boys’ egos to the point that they shine in the dark, I must qualify my praise by saying that, this side of Glory there is no such thing as perfection. What was that? Is the man going to criticise the band? No, but, if I had been controlling the sound desk, there are a couple of tunes where I would have taken the Monty Sunshinesque clarinet of Sverker Nystrom down a tad and pushed up the slider for Esbjorn Olsson’s cornet a fraction, but, really, I am splitting hairs and on any other band I wouldn’t have even noticed.

I got this CD two weeks ago and have played it whilst travelling to work and back since it arrived to the exclusion of all else. I have three long awaited CDs sitting on my table at home yet to be played, but I have not, as yet, managed to summons up the courage to wean myself off of this CD.

I refuse to single out a track for exceptional praise, but if you ever get asked to nominate just one tune to demonstrate New Orleans Jazz at its best, you could easily use ‘2:19 Blues’ and know that no jazz fan will argue with you.

I have Gota River CDs 1-6 and their Sorgenfri Kirke recordings. Although I can note an increased maturity in their playing, their style has always been, and remains, New Orleans jazz of the European tradition. ‘I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Play’? On ‘Home Sweet Home’ I could have sworn I heard a young Ken Colyer play!

The above can all be bought from: http://listen.to/gotariver


GOTA RIVER JAZZMEN

IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME

Raymer Sound RSCD-791 2004 12 tracks 75 min

IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME, I GET THE BLUES WHEN IT RAINS, YOU CAN'T ESCAPE FROM ME, CARELESS LOVE, RUNNING WILD, POSTMAN'S LAMENT, COLLEGIATE, HIS EYE IS ON THE SPARROW, BY AND BY, GOIN' HOME, WHEN YOU WORE A TULIP, PRECIOUS LORD

And now for something completely different…. Well it is, though perhaps not actually unique. This CD is a live recording from the band's appearance at the Bude Jazz Club during their acclaimed tour of England. The band have been recorded live before (see reviews of the Sorgenfri Kirke Vol 1 and 2 CDs off my main Jazz Review page), but not in this type of setting. The other thing is the band are playing better known jazz numbers than they usually put on their albums (though Precious Lord is the only track that they themselves have recorded before- see Sorgenfri Kirke Vol 2). So, as I said, this CD is rather different from the earlier CDs put out by the band.

Is anything else different? Well I think that the overall sound is much warmer. All previous recordings have either been in the band's local parish hall, which has a cooler sound, though not cursed with empty echo, or in front of a church congregation. Now parish halls are designed to be multi-purpose and are not specifically designed to double as a recording studio and churches are normally designed to project the voices of the minister and/or choir without amplification, something which can give an unusual twist to the sound of a jazz band. This recording is in a pub with a live audience, so the reverb isn't there and the crowd helps to soak up any stray sounds and then add to that an appreciative audience for the band to feed off. Warmer is the word I have chosen and I think it is what best fits.

Is anything else different? Well I think that the overall sound is much warmer. All previous recordings have either been in the band's local parish hall, which has a cooler sound, though not cursed with empty echo, or in front of a church congregation. Now parish halls are designed to be multi-purpose and are not specifically designed to double as a recording studio and churches are normally designed to project the voices of the minister and/or choir without amplification, something which can give an unusual twist to the sound of a jazz band. This recording is in a pub with a live audience, so the reverb isn't there and the crowd helps to soak up any stray sounds and then add to that an appreciative audience for the band to feed off. Warmer is the word I have chosen and I think it is what best fits.

Then there is the balance. This time the band have been recorded and the CD released by Raymer Sound. The result of this is a more 'British' sound with the back line getting a slightly higher profile than is normal on a Scandinavian, European or American recording. Now, I am not trying to be critical about the efforts of the recording engineers that have handled GRJ's previous efforts. I have done my stint on a sound desk and know that 'balance' and 'ambience' are very subjective. Being a 'Brit' myself, I like this CD's mix, especially as it has given me an increased appreciation for drummer Hans Åsberg's contribution to the band's sound. It also makes it easier for me to make some comparisons and thereby reinforce my earlier views that GRJ are the true heirs to Ken Colyer.

The band, as always, plays great jazz in the New Orleans style. There is everything here from the exciting to the melancholic: from the stirring to the emotionally wrenching. Over the years I have noticed a growing confidence in the band. One can expect an increased maturity in their playing, but this is another element, perhaps it is the growing international recognition that they now have. Paul Mayor of the Bude Jazz Club, says that he had been told he just had to attend the band's performance if there was jazz in his veins. He later commented that he stood rooted to the spot and couldn't even break away to pop to the bar; for an Englishman to forgo his ale, things must really have stirred him.

Every CD the Gota River Jazzmen has released has the ability to be played on a continuous loop for hours without becoming boring or blasé and this one is no exception. I have been listening to it, and nothing else, for almost two weeks now (including some 8 hour stints at work) and am still hearing new things each time I play it. The only problem I have just come across is that, having quickly played some tracks of their earlier CDs to ensure I am not spouting rubbish about the sound difference, I now want to listen to those CDs again too. What shall I do? Stick to 'In the Good Old Summertime' or take other GRJ CDs with me to work to listen to? I can't decide, so how about you Email me with your views? Until then maybe I'll stay with this album for another week or two.

The above can be bought from: http://listen.to/gotariver


GOTA RIVER JAZZMEN

IN THAT DAY

GRJCD 07 2005 15 tracks 74 min

Sweet Fields, This Love Of Mine, Black Cat On A Fence, In That Day, Yellow Dog Blues, First Choice, Working Man Blues, West Indies Blues, I Love You So Much It Hurts, While We Danced At The Mardi Gras, I Rock My Mama, Hiawatha, Jazzin’ Baby Blues, Don’t Sweetheart Me, When We All Get To Heaven

Well this band can always ‘sweetheart me’! whilst I would quit ego so far as to say ‘I Love You So Much It Hurts’ and can say that ‘When We All Get To Heaven’ I expect to be on the next cloud over listening to the boys blowing up a storm with their jazz.

A guy called Bruce often travels on the same bus as I and he is a fellow jazz fan, albeit his taste is wider than mine. I got him to listen to the first track and let me know what he thought. Well his brow furrowed and his eyes closed in concentration. When it finished he was puzzled. His first thought was that it was a re-issue of the 1953 Ken Colyer band, then he thought it was the 1954-56 Chris Barber Band but, as he said; firstly the quality of the recording was superb and far higher than an old recording could ever be, no matter what computer trickery was used (and he is an IT expert). Secondly; although the band sounded like line ups of either Colyer or Barber in the early 50s, they just weren’t. He was impressed when I gave him the CD box to read and he even made a note of the Web site so that he could follow up getting some of Gota River’s material.

His comments confirmed my own impressions (see above reviews); it is soooo nice to be right isn’t it? The band has the ‘feel’ of the aforementioned bands but, unlike say, Bjorn Again the ABBA tribute band, they are not clones.

Whenever I find that the boys have a new CD on the market I pace up and down until I can get my sweaty paws on it, for I know that I will love it to bits. This CD is no exception and the fact that this time both cornet player Esbörn Olsson and clarinettist Sverker Nyström sing makes it all the more interesting, for in the past they have never been recorded making a vocal contribution (it was this that got me to let Bruce only listen to the first tune; ‘This Love Of Mine’ has Sverker exercising his vocal cords and it would have been all too obvious that it was neither The Gov’nor nor Ottlie Patterson doing so). The other interesting factor is that the band has forsaken its parish hall for a professional recording studio, and this has given them a more ‘intimate’ sound.

The material is a good mix of the familiar (especially to Colyer fans) and the unfamiliar (Frank Sinatra may have written and sung ‘This Love Of Mine, but I was never one to listen to his singing unless I had to).

This CD is, like all the other albums by Gota River, constantly playable and leaving it to loop all day would not be a problem. In fact; if you want to hear New Orleans jazz at its best and only wanted to buy one CD, this is it, In fact you could say that it should be your ‘First Choice’!

The above can be bought from: http://listen.to/gotariver

 


GOTA RIVER JAZZMEN

DARKNESS ON THE DELTA

GRJCD08 2006 12 tracks 76 min

SING ON, JESUS HAS GIVEN HIS LIFE, THERE’S YES YES IN YOUR EYES, SEE SEE RIDER, SHAKE IT & BREAK IT, DARKNESS ON THE DELTA, JUST A CLOSER WALK WITH THEE, BUGLE BOY MARCH, TELL ME YOUR DREAMS, DALLAS BLUES, SECOND LINE, LORD YOU’VE SURE BEEN GOOD TO ME

 

The first 6 CDs by Gota River were recorded in their local parish hall, the last CD was in a studio, now we have a CD recorded live. Since 2001 the band have made regular trips to play in the Netherlands. The tracks on the album were all laid down at Het Nut in Warnsveld during 2002, 2003 and 2005 sessions. Live recording sessions are the crunch really as there can be no second takes to cover miffed notes or discordant clashes and, of course, there are often problems with acoustic and sound balance. Well there are no problems at all here with any of those.

Usually the band use their CDs to introduce their fans to little known tunes, but this time, apart from "Jesus Has Given His Life’, they have stuck to the well known and indeed, well loved. This allows you to compare them to all the other NO and Traditional Jazz bands you have heard, and some of these tunes I have 20+ versions of. The result is I am reinforced in my opinion that The Gota River Jazzmen are the finest New Orleans Jazz practitioners in the world today. If you wanted to let someone hear a CD that best represented the music then this can be it and I feel it stands alongside the finest of the CDs of Ken Colyer that have been released (my usual standard of measure). Talking of which; although Ken often had a piano playing on his albums, he never had a regular pianist playing with the band. Gota River do: Ingemar Wagerman. This stuck in my mind whilst listening to the CD and therefore I paid more attention that I usually do to Ingemar’s contribution. He is the consummate traditional jazz pianist; he can play stirring or rousing solos, sensitively under score frontline players when they are solo, or put beef into the backline when the band are ensemble.

I won’t do a track by track review as they are all beautifully crafted but perhaps I will make just one comment. When I listen to the tunes on a CD I am reviewing I often come up with phrases about the tune and how it is performed; sometimes I use the phrase, often not, but it helps me get a feel for things. Whilst listening to "Jesus Has Given His Life" I thought ‘a haunting tune played to near perfection’. On the bus I travel on is a fellow jazz lover. I let him listen to part of the CD one evening. He commented: ‘Beautiful, but that second track really got me; a haunting tune played to near perfection’. Damn it: the man is stealing my script!

So, a live CD that is near perfection; only a fool wouldn’t want it in their collection. 

The above can be bought from: http://listen.to/gotariver


GOTA RIVER JAZZMEN

LILIES OF THE VALLEY

GRJCD09 2007 17 tracks 72 min

 

HOW ABOUT YOU, SOME DAY, THE LIGHT FROM THE LIGHTHOUSE, LASCIA CHIO PIANGA, SILVER BELL, PASS ME NOT, TO THE WORK, GOD WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU, GOD’S WAYS, THE KING & I, SOFTLY & TENDERLY, WHEN MY JOURNEY IS ENDED, ALL THAT OUR SAVIOUR HAST SPOKEN, LILIES OF THE VALLEY, PEACE PERFECT PEACE, MEETING IN THE AIR, THAT’S ALL

 

Writing a review of the GRJ gives me a big problem. I have used so many superlative terms before on their other CDs, what more can I say other than, in their idiom, this band is the #1 in the world.

Yet again they have not only produced some of the most beautiful strict New Orleans style jazz available on CD today, but again they have found lots of never before used material. As with ‘Gather at the River’ and ‘Swedish Hymns’ we have a collection of Christian tunes. Whereas ‘Gather at the River’ was made up of well known gospel songs and ‘Swedish Hymns’ was just that, this CD is a mix, albeit mainly tunes ‘un-jazzed’ before. Who else has recorded Handle’s ‘Lascia Chio Pianga’ (here a clarinet solo with piano interlude)? From the gentle & rather melancholic ‘Some Day’ and ‘Peace Perfect Peace’ to the up-beat ‘The King & I’ and ‘Let the Light from the Lighthouse’ (complete with a set of lyrics I haven’t heard before) , to the classic blues styled ‘That’s All’ and one mustn’t go past Ingermar Wagerman’s piano solo ‘God’s Ways’. Talking of band members; The GRJ have a new drummer, Lars Gunnar Rook. Not quite the same style as Hans Asberg, but just as good and appropriate for the music.

Should you want more details of the tunes, listen to sample tracks or, as I recommend, buy the CD go to: http://listen.to/gotariver. I know things from Sweden are dear but, believe me, investing (and I do not use the term lightly) in this CD, or indeed any others put out by the band, is well worth the money. I can guarantee you will never regret the cost.

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