Torbjörn Zetterberg & Den Stora Frågan

Are You Happy?
Moserobie MMP CD 122

Continuing to establish himself in the international improvised music world, with this session Swedish bassist Torbjörn Zetterberg goes a long way towards answering the big question which is the translation of his band is name. To wit: How do you create an outstanding contemporary Jazz CD? Zetterberg does so by melding elements from heritage and happenstance without letting either dominate. His eight compositions and arrangements are interpreted by a top-flight Scandinavian-based crew: Portuguese trumpeter Santos Silva; Italian baritone saxophonist/ clarinetist Alberto Pinton; plus North European-born trombonist Mats Äleklint; alto and tenor saxophonist/flutist Jonas Kullhammar, keyboardist Alexander Zethson and drummers Jon Fält or Lars Skoglund.

“Oraklet I Finnåker” is one instance of this tradition/testing strategy with a banda/Dixieland styled theme that appears ready to march out of the studio into a parade route, borne on cowbell clangs, bass string slaps and rapid-fire brassy brays from Silva and Äleklint. All the while a polyphonic back-and-forth exists among the players. This leitmotif is exhibited from the first selection, “Meningen Med Vad” all the way to the final title tune. More expressive, the first track lines up double bass thunks and organ-like swells behind Kullhammar’s triple tonguing splutters and upward smears as intense theme variations. Meanwhile the other horns riff around him in layered forward motion climaxing with Skoglund’s paradiddle pumps.

Thoroughly modern but never mired in obtuse atonality, each of players has room for distinctive expression, whether it’s plunger work from the brass section, melismatic slurs from the woodwind players, rhythmic popping and bopping from the drummers or clattering and vibrating echoes from Zethson’s keyboards. Overall though, “Nytt Hopp över Atlanten 7” may be the most fully realized performance pm the discs. Here lazy trombone slurs interlock with Kullhammar’s relaxed tenor saxophone tones until Äleklint transforms his slides into heavier and harder smears pushed out with Gatling gun precision until riffing horns, lead by baritone saxophone burps, undulates the narrative to an unexpected truncated ending.

With a skilful program like this CD, the only great question that remains to be answered by Zetterberg is what will he create next?

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Meningen Med Vad# 2. Plingplongpiano 3. Oraklet I Finnåker 4. Drömmusik 5. Påminnelser För Den Kortsinnade# 6. Nytt Hopp över Atlanten 7. Skygglappar På I Lusthuset 8. Are You Happy?

Personnel: Susana Santos Silva (trumpet); Mats Äleklint (trombone); Jonas Kullhammar (alto and tenor saxophones, flute); Alberto Pinton (baritone saxophone and clarinet); Alexander Zethson (Hammond organ and Fender Rhodes); Torbjörn Zetterberg (bass); Jon Fält or Lars Skoglund# (drums)