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Big5 by Jacob Karlzon

One of the brightest and most lyrical pianists on the Swedish Jazz scene is Jacob Karlzon. Often compared to Bill Evans, Karlzon is growing on his own terms finding his voice and pleasing many listeners along the way. Within the Swedish Jazz community, Karlzon is well respected for his keyboard talents as well as joy of performing. Aside from his piano skills, Karlzon is also an emerging talent when it comes to writing and arranging. On his latest outing, Big5, he has a chance to use the group to full advantage.

Rhythmically balanced is probably the best way to describe Questions. This slowly developing number features Asplund's delicate horn work. Intimacy prevails throughout his playing. Karlzon's sympathetic comping adds a colorful dimension. An intriguing number with enough twists and turns to keep ones attention. Danemo's percussive work builds throughout. Never overstated, but always there injecting a balanced foundation which Almqvist takes full advantage of.

For Our Dearest is a lovely melody, again featuring the group. Beautifully constructed and arranged, the piece flows like a river on a hot summer's day. A tonic for the senses lulling the listener into dreamsville.

A fun tune throughout, Hillbillies is a funky number that swings like crazy. Get up and dance. It's party time. This one belongs to Asplund and Almqvist. Playing around the melody, fortifying the moment with fun and sparkle. We get to hear another side of Karlzon's playing. One that leads one to believe that he is comfortable in demanding situations where swing is essential. No lack of that here. After a few bars from Asplund and Almqvist, it's time for Karlzon to show what he is really made of. In and out of chord changes, as well as keeping up with the rest of the band, he undoubtedly has the skill and pizzaz to raise the bar when need be.

Offbeat rhythms heralding a previous era, Kongo is a most satisfying excursion. Structurally and harmonically rich, Big5 offer up a tune which builds with every chorus, satisfies with every note, and delivers on all counts. A fine example of Karlzon's arranging skill.

This is new territory for Karlzon in that his band is larger than the trio settings of past recordings. A successful session for sure, Karlzon is not only a gifted pianist, but a man who is always listening for new sounds and directions. May I suggest a big band outing next time? Whatever band that may be, one thing is for sure. Karlzon would be a welcomed asset. Big5 is a most satisfying release. One that will please many listeners old and new.

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