Recital Room, City Halls, 10th March 2007

Part of Jazz from Sweden

Quite simply, Jonas Kullhammar produced one of the most exciting, inventive displays of tenor playing I’ve heard for a long time.

My first impression wasn’t quite as positive: the band’s opening number was very reminiscent of a lot of the John Coltrane Quartet’s stuff from the early 60s, and I was worried that all we were going to get was a Coltrane tribute band. But Kullhammar’s playing had a lot more to it than that. The wit and sense of fun in his playing, plus the way he sometimes built solos up out of short motifs brought Sonny Rollins at his most “out” to mind as often as it did Coltrane. That’s not to deny that there was a strong Coltrane influence on the band. In particular, drummer Jonas Holgersson was very much out of the school of Elvin Jones. Pianist Torbjörn Gultz sounded a wee bit like McCoy Tyner at times when he was backing Kullhammar’s soloing, but on his on solos, especially on pieces such as “Stormen” he demonstrated that he had his own personality. Torbjörn Zetterberg held things together solidly on bass.

I think part of the reason why this band were so impressive was that, while completely serious musically, they sounded as if they were having fun playing, and this sense of enjoyment carried over to the audience. Kullhammar’s between-song introductions were also very amusing – he had better stage patter than most English mother-tongue musicians.

On the way out of the hall, I overheard one of the older members of the audience say that he had been at Coltrane’s concert at the St Andrews Hall in the early 60s, and…. I wish I’d been rude enough to hang around and hear what the rest of the conversation was.