CD OF THE WEEK BERGEN BIG BAND/KARIN KROG
Seagull Grappa ★★★★ Established in 1993, Norway’s BBB make a belated recording debut with this CD. The wonder is that it’s taken so long; the band is powerful, precise, laidback and swinging, and in singer and compatriot Krog (pictured) it has a guest of international class. Britain’s John Surman, who acts as director, also orchestrated seven pieces (a standard, My Shining Hour, and six originals, five jointly written with Krog and one by Krog alone) and takes a couple of solos on baritone and soprano.
Surman’s arrangements for the singer work beautifully, particularly the gorgeously voiced title track, with its haunting lyric, and the delightful Don’t Just Sing. There’s some lovely writing from a relatively low-profile (at least in jazz terms) Canadian, John Warren, who turns Lament, the Johnson/Hendricks tune, into a kind of tone poem. But the pièce de résistance is the oldest arrangement, a superb, dark, sonorous refashioning of Angel Eyes, with its subtly mordant hints of dissonance, by the late Don Ellis, which finds Krog at her distinctive best.
There’s nothing on Seagull that could be called avant garde, but Krog, Surman and the BBB are a class act. And the recording quality, by the great Jan Erik Kongshaug, is remarkable. www.karinkrog.no, www.johnsurman.com, www.vestnorskjazzsenter.no.