CD REVIEW: Halperin-Nyberg Connection - Snow Tiger

Halperin-Nyberg Connection - Snow Tiger
(Stockholm Jazz Records SJRCD026. CD review by Rob Mallows)

This is an album bringing together two players from different generations - and continents of jazz - around a shared appreciation of the music of US composer and pianist Lennie Tristano. US sax player Jimmy Halperin, b. 1958, connects on Snow Tiger with three young European players led by Swedish guitarist Pal Nyberg, Danish drummer Andreas Fryland and renowned Swedish double bass player Robert Erlandsson. It’s an interesting mix of musical schools. The result is an interesting fusion of beautifully played tunes which have huge amounts of groove and creative artistry across eleven tracks.

Nyberg is a guitarist and composer based in Stockholm, involved in numerous collaborations around the globe. Since graduating from the renowned Conservatorium van Amsterdam in 2010, he has played with many of the great young improvisers of the jazz scene in Scandinavia and continental Europe. There’s no doubting, from listening to this album, that he’s one of the continent’s strongest standard bearers for the straight-ahead jazz guitar sound.

Halperin is one of the main flag bearers of Lennie Tristano’s New York legacy, having played extensively on the New York underground scene and in bands with Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh. His sax sound has a lineage going back to Lester Young, Charlie Parker and Marsh, and there’s no doubting his improvisational chops and melodic flourishes on such Tristano-penned tracks as Lennie’s Pennie’s - which is simple in its beautiful duetting, riding up and down the scales, with Nyberg - and ninth track Leave Me.

Perhaps the snazziest track is second number Dixie’s Dilemma, which fair thunders along on Erlandsson’s pitch-perfect walking bass and Fryland’s hypnotic ride cymbal atop which Halperin and Nyberg play a jaunty, summery melody which makes you wonder what Dixie was worried about. Ballads like Nyberg composition Siri bring a touch of Scandinavian melancholy to contrast with the New York groove sound and add some space to what is quite a single-paced album. The Lee Konitz-penned seventh number Subconscious-Lee showed off Nyberg’s and Halperin’s shared skill in playing creatively off simple melodic lines, improvising without the need for over-complication, and is perhaps the stand-out track on the album.

While the mixture of sounds, compositions and moods on the album is broad, that very mix itself perhaps in the end lets down the album a little - it feels a little like it lacks a clear creative coherence - and is let down a little by the rather boomy mix of the bass in the overall sound, which can grate after a while. Despite being on the cover and one-half of the title duo, I would have liked to have heard more of Nyberg’s own compositions - he composes only one track - and a stronger sense of the Scandinavian influence on his sound.

Nevertheless, this is definite foot-tapping stuff which pays due homage to the New York underground jazz scene and one its pioneering musicians, and is worth checking out for fans of groove and straightforward sax-and-guitar interplay.

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