From the opening notes of Blues On The Corner to the final audience applause following Walking The Path, Sean Nowell does not disappoint. Nowell possesses a big, beefy, traditional tenor sound reminiscent of early Sonny Rollins and other legendary tenor saxophonists of the 20th century. His hard-swinging lines on his opening choruses of Blues On The Corner pay homage to virtually every tenor man who came before this relatively young jazz ambassador.
The second cut Ack Varmeland, Du Skona; a traditional Swedish melody features Fredrik Olsson first on guitar. Abba, Ekman and Lindberg provide a lush and swinging background over which Olsson stretches. Nowell solos secondly with ferocity not previously heard. His angry tenor pushes forward, culminating in a flurry of alternate fingerings taking him high into the altissimo. The climax of his solo comes in the middle, gradually winding down on the final chorus and the final head.
Harlem Woman is an aptly titled, sassy and swinging tune. Olsson’s guitar and Nowell’s tenor play the melody and it’s predominant bluesy turns in perfect unison. As with the opening tune, Nowell’s group sound completely at home with the blues – as well as the subtly modulating bridge found here. Lindberg solos first on piano, showing his own familiarity with the traditional jazz language. Abba and Ekman swing on as Olsson tastefully allows the trio some space. Sean Nowell’s tenor playing shines brightly on his solo taken just before the final chorus. His lines are original, clever and technical little gems to behold.
Ellington’s Amad begins with Abba on the drums, then Ekman on bass, setting up this somewhat eerie sounding modal piece. In gradual succession, Lindberg joins them on piano, followed by the melodic statement by Olsson and Nowell. The sound at the onset of Nowell’s tenor solo is sparse and staccato. He and Olsson trade spirited ideas over a somewhat static vamp. Abba solos dominantly as well. The spirit and nature of this tune is reminiscent of some older ECM recordings and Nowell seems to approach this tune as a young Jan Garbarek may have. At any rate, it is quite a departure from the more tradition sound of the remaining cuts on Stockholm Swingin’.
NY Vibe is precisely what the name implies. A classic and yet contemporary sound of New York jazz. Despite the reference, Nowell at times reminds me in a small way of Ernie Watt’s current West Coast sound and style. Olsson also solos nicely on guitar.
Billy Strayhorn’s classic Chelsea Bridge features Sean Nowell’s husky lower register on the melody. Again, as on Harlem Woman, Nowell crafts a wonderfully creative improvisation. His bending, swooping tenor here showcases yet another stylistic side of this very competent tenor man.
Sweet Night displays the traditional, straight-ahead jazz sound this group handles so well. Olsson solos first over the swing, then Latin groove. Sitting back and listening, this writer can’t help but want to pick the horn and join in. A short melodic statement divides the solos between guitar and tenor solo. Nowell then solos over a quasi-New Orleans style Second Street groove. Nowell weaves in and out of tonality, as does the rhythm section behind him. It is clear the ensemble is having a blast.
The final track Walking The Path seems a curious choice from a programming standpoint. Its slow, understated manner is not what we ordinarily expect from the closing number. It does, however pick up during the solos by Nowell and Olsson. In the end the group fades to an end rather than going out with a bang.
Stockholm Swingin’” is a delightful example of traditional, straight-ahead jazz, beautiful produced by Marc Free and Posi-Tone Records. The new and relatively unknown talent Posi-Tone chooses to showcase continually impresses me.
You can find out more about Sean Nowell and other innovative recordings at www.posi-tone.com