SAX APPEAL is a great album. If you’re not that familiar with Swedish jazz, this is a good place to start.

Fresh Sound Records

Rolf Billberg – Alto Sax; Harry Bäcklund – Tenor Sax; Allan Lundström – Tenor Sax; Lars Gullin – Baritone Sax; Nils Lindberg – Piano & Arranger; Sture Nordin – Bass; Conny Svensson – Drums

Nils Lindberg TV-Orkester

Maffy Falay – Trumpet; Ake Persson – Trombone; Allan Lundström – Tenor Sax; Tosten Wennberg – Baritone Sax; Nils Lindberg – Piano; Sture Nordin – Bass; Conny Svensson – Drums

The Swedish Modern Jazz Group, Recorded in Stockholm 1960

A music critic described Swedish composer and pianist Nils Lindberg as a “musical knight,” riding on the frontiers of music. I looked through his extensive discography and saw jazz, classical composition, Swedish folk music. He was a busy guy. When it comes to jazz he worked with the great Swedish jazz vocalist, Alice Babs. He wrote arrangements for Duke Ellington. He worked with Josephine Baker, Judy Garland, and Mel Torme.

The Swedish Modern Jazz Group, recorded in 1960, didn’t have any brass players, but you get a lot of saxophone. The arrangements are silky smooth. It’s West Coast California cool, with a touch of the older swing band sound.

On ‘Curbits ’Lars Gullin has the first solo on baritone sax, and it’s gorgeous. Allan Lundström solos next on the tenor sax. Rolf Billberg steps in next on the alto sax. I’m struck by how good all the saxophone players are. Was there something in Sweden’s drinking water that turned sax players into phenomenal soloists?

Lindberg was a fine jazz pianist, but maybe a bit tentative. He sure knew how to write pretty melodies.

Lars Gullin intros ‘Brand New,’ There’s a lovely duet with bassist Sture Nordin. The basslines are thick and resonant. Lindberg’s piano dances along the upper keys, creating a charming contrast. Harry Bäcklund and Allan Lundström, both on tenor sax, collaborate and then trade off amazing solos. Drummer Conny Svensson’s brushwork on the cymbals is flawless.

Lindberg composed most of the music, but the band does Charlie Ventura’s ‘Birdland, ’and it’s a knockout. Beautiful unison playing, drummer Svensson is given free rein, and he goes for it. There is a fabulous alto solo from Billberg. The rest of the sax players show their stuff. I was familiar with Lars Gullin. I had not heard of these other great sax men.

There are four tracks from another of Lindberg’s bands, Nil Lindberg’s TV Orkester. Trumpeter Maffy Faley and trombonist Ake Peerson were added. Tosten Wennberg replaced Lars Gullin on the baritone sax. Their version of ‘Cotton Tail ’was performed by a much smaller outfit than the Duke Ellington orchestra, but they played their hearts out. There are some excellent solos from everyone, even Lindberg, despite having to play on a tinny-sounding piano.

‘Blues For Bill ’is another Lindberg composition. Bass and piano comp for a bit, and then there is this great theme. It reminded me of the theme from The Andy Griffith show. The band plays in unison, before the tenor sax, trumpet, and trombone show off their improvization skills.

SAX APPEAL is a great album. If you’re not that familiar with Swedish jazz, this is a good place to start.

There is no better jazz reissue label than Fresh Sound Records. They remaster everything they put out. Many times, the reissue sounds better than the original.