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CADENCE. The review of jazz & blues: Creative improvised music. October 1999




S'Wonderful / Come Together / Faviana / Lining Up! / Days of Wine and Roses /Angel Eyes / Broadbottom / In the Clear / If Right Was Wrong / On the Street Where You Live. 62:52.

Don Menza, prod, ts; Birger Carlsen, dir, tbn; Frank Brodahl, Karl Strømme, Birgit Kjuus, Marius Haltli, tpt, flgh; Kåre Løchsen, as, ss, flt; Marius Revold, as, ss, cl; Hallvard Nyrud, ts, flt; Biørn Barlo, ts, cl, flt; Jon Bakkelund, bars,bcl; Tor Pundsnes, Bjørn Tveøy, Audun Øksendal,trombone; ØisteinVethe,btbn; Helge Lien, p; Helge Ellingsen, b; Torstein Ellingsen, d; Mark Nightingale, tbn (1, 5, 8, 1 0); Claire Martin, vcl (2, 6, 10). Oslo, Norway, Feb. 1999.

Although (2) is named for one of producer/tenor saxophonist Don Menza's fleet-footed compositions, the opening selection accurately sums up what's inside this bounteous package from Norway's seasoned Sandvika Storband (big band) - "S'Wonderful". Sandvika has been making music together for more than two decades, and does so with a minimum of error and an abundance of drive and teamwork. This new release, the third I've seen from the ensemble, benefits enormously from Menza's towering presence (he wrote three of the 10 numbers and solos on "Lining Up!" "Angel Eyes" and "If Right Was Wrong") and that of two talented guests from England, Mark Nightingale and Claire Martin. Nightingal, who bears more than a passing resemblance to a couple of outstanding young American trombonists, Andy Martin and Paul McKee (as well as to veteran Carl Fontana), arranged and solos on the Gershwins "S'Wonderful", wrote the swinging Jazz waltz "In the Clear", salutes the "Days of Wine and Roses" and walks boldly "On the Street Where You Live". Martin, whose wellearned stature as one of Jazzdom's finest contemporary singers has spread well beyond the borders of her homeland, lends her impressive vocal talents to "Angel Eyes," "Street Where You Live" and Lennon/McCartney's "Come Together". Sandvika, meanwhile, is at its collective best on Menza's "Lining Up!" (which includes a number of demanding passages for brass and reeds) and Swedish composer Örjan Fahlström's seductive shuffle, "If Right Was Wrong". Sandvika also has its own arsenal of sharp-shooting soloists including guitarist Kjekstad ("Come Together," "Lining Up!"), pianist Lien ("Come Together"), tenor Barlo ("In the Clear", Menza's "Broadbottom"), trombonist/music director Carlsen (Menza's "Faviana"), drummer Ellingsen ("Lining Up!") and trumpeters Strømme ("Faviana") and Haltli ("In The Clear","Days of Wine and Roses"). When it comes to big bands, Sandvika spells excellence; add Menza, Nightingale and Martin and that spells pure-blooded excitement.

Jack Bowers