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Friday, 17 July 2020 16:39

Nils Landgren and Jan Lundgren - Kristallen

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Songs for the broken-hearted.

Kristallen is a collaborative work from fellow Swedes Nils Landgren (trombone and vocals) and Jan Lundgren (piano).

Blekinge opens the album with mournful trombone playing over sparse piano, giving the impression of open space in this homage to Jan Lundgren’s home area in Sweden.  This style carries over fluidly into Byssan Lull, an instrumental version of a Swedish lullaby.  The opening forlorn trombone melody is taken over by piano before the piece develops into a bluesy piece over a walking bass line on piano.  Pastoral Country is a cover of the Keith Jarrett number and lends itself well to Nils Landgren’s emotive playing.

Written by Jimmy Webb in 1967, Didn’t We has been covered by a huge number of vocalists (Frank Sinatra, Glen Campbell, Johnny Mathis, Barbara Streisand, to name but a few of the more well known), each bringing their own style to this melancholic number.  In this version, Landgren’s vocal tone is clear if slightly gruff, adding poignancy over the light piano touch and echoing the trombone’s tone in the middle eight.

Watch the video for Didn't We here:

Hornlatar brings us back to instrumental in this haunting number, reminiscent of Landgren’s interplay with Esbjörn Svensson on their earlier album, Swedish Folk Modern.

I was not a Beatles fan and I Will never caught my attention but Landgren clearly thought it was worth a remodelling.  Lundgren’s piano gives this ditty an interesting jazzy rendering, while Landgren’s vocals render more emotion than the original; I think McCartney would be happy.  Nice trombone solo.  Lovers Parade by Jan Lundgren / Michael Saxell is another song of lost love, less melancholic than others, with a sense of recovery and acceptance.  Surely everyone knows Norwegian Wood (Beatles)?  This instrumental cover for piano and trombone is played exactly as you would expect.

The trombone can be an incredibly emotive instrument and Olu conveys a sense of loss and regret far more than any vocal rendition could.  This version is less sepulchral than that on his earlier album, Gotland, the light piano giving just the right amount of support to the beautiful trombone melody – my favourite piece!

Another frequently covered song, The Nearness Of You (Hoagy Carmichael & Ned Washington) has been performed by the likes of Glen Miller, Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra and Nora Jones.  Despite the competition, this version comes across well, with a lot of emotion.  Värmlandsvisan  is a nice laid-back duet between piano and trombone.  The Wedding is a classic piano piece by Abdullah Ibrahim; in this adaptation the trombone carries the warm melody well, making this another personal favourite.  The slightly melancholic air fits the mood of the album and makes a fine concluding number.

In limiting the instruments to piano and trombone, the album presents a very stark feel throughout, perfect for the pervading sense of melancholia. 

Where Landgren sings, he has chosen classics that have been covered by well known talents and there is a risk of comparison, but I think he holds his own - his voice has a slightly coarse edge which transmits the emotional interpretation well.  Personally, my preference is always for instrumental pieces as I feel these can convey more emotion than vocal cords ever can – I guess its like reading a book rather than watching a film, you can put your own emotional involvement into play.

I think this is one for all the broken-hearted.

Grae Shennan – May 2020


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