Anyone wondering how Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers might have sounded had it emerged in Sweden—minus saxophone, listening to Abba and incorporating a dash of funk—will hear a fair approximation on Anders Bergcrantz’s About Time. With a front line of Bergcrantz's clarion trumpet next to Vincent Nilsson's dexterous trombone and bass trombone, supported by a tight rhythm section led by Jacob Karlzon’s impressive ivory work—this group comes out swinging.
The influence of Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan and Woody Shaw are also evident in Bergcrantz’s playing, which he acknowledges in his liner notes. All the compositions are his, with the exception of two by the band.
”Dedication” starts things off on a positive note. “Pavo” is filled with fluent piano runs buoyed by some supple trombone support. The pushing Messengers vibe is revisited on “Chief Sitting Bull,” featuring Karlzon’s catchy ostinato piano.
The title track is a melancholy and plangent trumpet solo introduction to “While My Horn Gently Weeps,” a lilting semi -bossa tune on which the entire group shines. Cochise” has some unison horn sparring, featuring bright bursts from the leader, with a tight and propulsive Lennart Gruvstedt on drums urging things forward. A trumpet/trombone duo (complete with cries, squawls, chirps and train sounds) leads into the closer, “Runeberg.” Bergcrantz's clear bell tone soars above a roiling rhythm section, again with a strong contribution from Karlzon.
Those unfamiliar with Bergcrantz will find About Time a good place to start, although his earlier In This Together (Dragon, 1999), featuring an American rhythm section led by pianist Richie Beirach, is also heartily recommended.