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May 2008

Peter Erskine/Tim Hagans & The Norrbotten Big Band
Worth the Wait
Fuzzy Music

Tim Hagans, a Blue Note recording artist during the ’90s, has been the artistic director of the Norrbotten Big Band since 1996. The band is composed of some of Sweden’s best jazz musicians and performs original music with special guest soloists, which have included Joe Lovano, Chris Potter and Toots Thielemans. For this exciting live concert recording in October 2006 in Luleå, Sweden, the esteemed drummer Peter Erskine was the invited participant. Worth the wait, indeed—Hagans and Erskine first performed together in the ’70s with the Stan Kenton Orchestra. Erskine’s title tune is based on “Just in Time” changes, and is expertly arranged by Hagans. The intricate melody is expanded upon in altoist Johan Hörlén’s fine bop-drenched solo. Erskine’s cogent, concise solo and Daniel Tilling’s sparkling piano solo are other highlights, as well as trumpeter Dan Johansson’s rich-toned and swinging improv.

Hagans’ “You Should See My Office” shows off the formidable brass and sax sections. Mats Garberg’s tenor is impressive, and Hagans’ trumpet enters wailing in the upper register with exclamatory, winding lines. Erskine’s solo effectively mixes his firm bass drum accents with his skillful stickwork. “Plan 9” is a swirling, humorous Erskine theme arranged by Bill Dobbins, and Hagans’ solo exhibits his pure tone, great technique and endless flow of ideas. The soulful Garberg excels again before Erskine’s superlative blend of bass drum, snares and cymbal splashes. Hagans’ “First Jazz” is a modal excursion for Håkan Broström’s soaring alto, followed by Hagans’ out-of-rhythm duet with just drums, Erskine’s spaced-out asides prodding him on. Erskine’s “Scotland, Africa,” with Dobbins’ clever arrangement, combines Scottish and African inflections and rhythms. Erskine’s “Reason to Believe” has a heated Hagans’ arrangement and engrossing solos by guitarist Ola Bengtsson, Broström and Erskine. Finally, “Drum Row” is the drummer’s showcase, the band’s short, intermittent statements providing the foundation for Erskine’s nimble, well-developed improvisation.

Originally published in May 2008
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