If music is the product of the environment it comes from, then it’s no surprise that some of the original compositions on this album have a Scandinavian quality to them. Saxophonist/composer Kari Sjöstrand is from Sweden and has been nursing dual passions in traditional Scandinavian folk music and jazz for most of her life. This album crossfades between those two passions.
The first three songs, “A Little Boat,” “The X Train” and “Frost Blossom,” use minor keys and waltz tempos to evoke swirling snow, the deep peace of winter and a sinister fairytale edge. From there the album moves to more straightforward jazz pieces. “Hello Mr T” shifts between Latin and swing rhythms, “Just To Be” is sincere in its melancholy, and “Molly’s Mood” caps things off in a funky way.
Kari has a gruff Sonny Rollins tone. She stays in the rich, fat lower echelons of the horn. No squealing or wailing here. She’s a marathon player as opposed to a sprinter. Her band tackles the difficult material with ease—hats off to the bass player, Larry Turner, for being tasteful.
I’ll risk being cutesy and say this album warms as it goes along: from Northern Europe to the American South, from frost to blossom.