It is happening today in Swedish jazz. Ability and versatility, spiced with maybe-a-little-too-much of Northern coolness, has met with the completing ingredients. An avalanche. A natural thing in a snowy country, perhaps. But this is an avalanche of enthusiasm, hot temper and life, combined with rhythmic mastership not normally to be found on these latitudes.
What we needed was an ex-tin-can beater from the slums of the 111th Street, Spanish Harlem, New York. A backyard guy of Spanish-African-West Indian origin. A backyard guy who became a frontpage guy. Sabu Martinez.
All of a sudden, he was here. Not straight from the backyards and the tin cans. He had had a few gigs with different latin bands in New York. And with Art Blakey's big band in 1946, with the Lecuona Cuban Boys, with Dizzy Gillespie, with the Charlie Parker quintet (including Red Rodney, Al Haig, Curley Russell and Max Roach), with Benny Goodman, Harry Belafonte, Buddy De Franco, Tony Bennett, Xavier Cugat, Sammy Davis Jr., and so on.
He had made it, one dare say. Stepping right into the open arms of Sweden's "jazz establishment," he has been a highlight on stage and television ever since his arrival on August 1, 1967. He is a must, wherever and whenever IT is to happen. Beating his bongos, his conga, his maraccas, his triangle, screaming, singing, and whistling his way into the hearts, brains, and spines of listeners and playmates. An avalanche and a fireball at the same time. Impossible?
Listen to his work here, in his Swedish debut album. It was a strange session. Sabu was around with European top-notch Rune Gustafsson, guitar, and Sture Nordin, bass, to accompany Sweden's most popular minstrel, a Dutchman who whips the local society with lots of jazz feeling and his own, challenging lyrics. For once Cornelis Vreeswijk did not show up.
The trio made it anyway. And I mean MADE IT! Two cool, able Swedes caught fire under the impact of Sabu. A breath of strings now and then added to the flavor when the North and the South mingled for this flexible get-together. The album is the definite break for Rune, the first ableman of jazz here to get the final kick-in-the-back by Sabu the Avalanche.
THE BEAT GOES ON is a frantic piece, studded with Rune's Wes Montgomerian octave runs. A head start of an album.
The 3/4 BWANA SIMBA features Sabu's vocal work and is followed by one of the most beautiful numbers of the session, meditative NO MORE by Britt Lindeborg, who regularly sticks to hit parade ditties. Strings are whispering along the final bars.
GROOVIN' is. Rune, now cool, then firey, performs a guitar-improvisation masterpiece.
The homespun FLAPJACKS is an up-tempo, yet thoughtful number with high instrumental qualities.
RECADO, known to a world audience by Caterina Valente's and Edmundo Ros' commercial recording, is given the rapid, deft treatment it deserves. A melodic and rhythmic playpiece.
Soft-rock tempo on THE DOCK OF THE BAY gets another spray of strings by the end and vanishes with Sabu's whistling. Sabu gives MUÑEQUITA LINDA an unpretentious vocal treatment with an accomplished guitar accompaniment, only to set fire to the whole studio in TUMBAEL TAMBO, a drum-and-vocal exhibition.
Jobim's GRANDE AMOR is preceded by a test introduction and a few comments from the musicians, adding to the informal atmosphere of this remarkable session where world star Sabu Martinez paves the way for another one -- Rune Gustafsson.
An avalanche is never welcome. Sabu constitutes an exception. -- Lasse Mattsson
© 1997 Hip Wax