Scandinavian crime novels are an instantly addictive art form that creates rabid enthusiasts — the more you read, the more you want to read. Scandinavian jazz is similarly enthralling, and for those primarily used to American music, there's something deliciously unique about Nordic sounds. It's probably as hard to define a Scandinavian sensibility as it is to define an American one, but nevertheless the Swedish group on Jonas Holgersson's CD Snick Snack has special quality, a distinctive syntax that's pleasurable and quite captivating.
The core group on Snick Snack is Holgersson on drums, Karl-Martin Almqvist on saxophones, and Christian Spering on bass. Born in 1973, Holgersson has been playing drums since he was ten, and over the years he has been wildly appreciated in his native Sweden: he has won several prestigious awards, and in 2000 the newspaper Smålandsposten crowned him "Sweden's best drummer." Almqvist, who's affectionately known as "The Bear," has been likened to legendary Swedish baritone player Lars Gullin, but actually cites American tenorman Dexter Gordon as a major influence. Bassist Spering is probably best known as one of the founders of the seminal Swedish jazz group Encore, as well as the cream of the ever-growing crop of Swedish bassists.
Over the course of the CD's eleven songs, the group plays in all possible configurations, including three solo pieces by Holgersson. Standouts include "Snick-Snack," a trio piece with great energy and a unique swing, where the telepathic cohesion between the players is immediately apparent. Almqvist has a gorgeous tone on sax, deep and penetrating with a distinctive metallic tang; Spering is a powerful bassist, whose lines resonate with a graceful depth; and Holgersson is an angular, inventive drummer, open to space and unexpected rhythmic byways. The song "Sweet Kiss" is pretty and charming, with Almqvist tenderly bending notes, and the group creating all manner of interesting twists that keep the ears alert. Another gem is the eight-minute "Danish Steel," which starts off with Holgersson laying down a roomy atmospheric field, eventually joined by the sax and bass. There's something both stately and sinuous about this tune, a restrained elegance that weaves throughout the flowing lines. And mention must be made of Holgersson's three solo pieces, which are technically crisp and enchantingly original.
When defining her Nordic jazz compulsion, journalist Fiona Talkington stated, "No matter what Scandinavians themselves say, I find an addictive and very compelling reserve about the music. There's a humility in it, even when someone's going musically full tilt." This also serves as a good description of Snick Snack — but whatever the magic is, listeners will surely want more. Don't say nobody warned you.
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