The latest in the weird and wonderful series of ‘reasons why I selected this artist/band’ takes us into the jazz world of Alf Carlsson.
We’ve had quite a few Norwegian jazz guitarists but few from Sweden so putting that right is a good start.
Add to that the songs on his debut album under his own name, ‘Lights’ seem to be set in central Sweden, an area that is familiar to me. One is ‘Brudpolska från Rättvik’ (‘Wedding song from Rättvik’) which is a small town on Lake Siljan, to which he traced his ancestry. I had the pleasure of staying there once, to see an Arcade Fire gig, believe it or not. The lake is so big it might be the Mediterranean; you can’t see the other sides.
Another track is called ‘Gråtlåtan’ (The Crying Game) and comes along just after I saw the film of that title for the first time in two decades. (You think I’m making this up, don’t you?)
Both are interpretations of traditional folk songs.
The others, which are originals, include ‘Chinook’, which bears no reference to the helicopter that I can discern, ‘The Epiphany’ and ‘21st Century Blues.’
Common to all of them is crisp, neat guitar work which interacts perfectly with piano and drums that speed up, slow down and speed up again like a cop car chase on Highway 101 through Hollywood, with all the attendant bumps, grinds, pits and crashes.
It appears that Alf was influenced into making this album by attending a folk music festival as a child and opting to revisit it every year since, and on it he has attempted to meld the rich sound of his guitar and his technical proficiency with the ominously dark harmony and the redefinition of a folk-tinged melody, and with some rock thrown in for good measure (as a boy his influence was Metallica) and a dash of the blues.
The selected track is ‘Where’s the party at?’ because we all love a party, don’t we?
It is the liveliest track on the album, accordingly, and almost as if he knew I was going to bring up police car chases here, he’s nailed a TV cop show series theme. Imagine Hill Street Blues had a successful spin-off series. Part way through a double bass picks up the theme but it isn’t long before Alf’s guitar takes up the challenge and he’s on fire, the rhythm section trying valiantly to keep up with him.
Whether you’re a mood person or turned on by technical wizardry there’s plenty here for you to go at.
‘Lights’ was released on September 1st, on the Naxos label.
Alf Carlsson | Electric guitar, acoustic guitar
Samuel Löfdahl | Double bass
Anton Dromberg | Piano
Hannes Sigfridsson | Drums
Find him on: