Inside Looking Out is the new album from Swedish jazz group Horncraft, the unique jazz group where French horns play an important part in colouring the music. Born in 1945, Håkan Nyqvist has a lot of experiences working in different ensembles and he’s always tried to incorporate those experiences in his own writing. Playing both French horn and trumpet in jazz settings, he was an in demand musician that had the opportunity to play in various constellations such as The Swedish Radio Jazz Group, where Håkan worked with, for example Thad Jones, Mel Lewis, Gil Evans, George Russel, Carla Bley and Kenny Wheeler. He has also recorded with a lot of prominent jazz artists like Lars Gullin, Monica Zetterlund, and Nils Lindberg.
Some of his biggest musical inspiration came from playing with the several Grammy Award winning Bernt Rosengren in different groups. He recorded several albums with Bernt, both in an octet and in Bernt’s Big Band. Another inspiration was Swedish jazz giant, and long time friend, the pianist Per Henrik Wallin. Horncraft consists of some of Sweden’s most interesting soloists and the combination of thoughtful, personal and well-written arrangements by Håkan Nyqvist and exciting soloists from the members makes this group stand out.
Those two opening paragraphs are pretty much all I know about Håkan Nyqvist and Horncraft, so what about the music? ‘New View’ has something of a fanfare opening before the melody kicks in and the trumpet sound of Erik Palmberg. Torbjörn Gulz mellows things out a bit at the piano with good support from the bass and drums. Örjan Hultén plays a good solo on soprano sax with horn backing. I like the tune and melody on this opening number and if this is an example of what is to come then I am all in.
‘Passwords’ has a wonderful brisk rhythm with a great bass line. Pianist Torbjörn Gulz plays a good solo but tonally, it is the full, rich tone from trombonist of Sven Berggrén that grabs my attention. This tune has a very good big band sound profile, which should not come as a surprise considering some the artists Håkan Nyqvist has worked with in the past. A very nice introduction leads us to the instantly recognizable melody of John Coltrane’s ‘Naima. Saxophonist Örjan Hultén delivers a very well-phrased solo and credit must also go to Håkan Nyqvist for the arrangement. This is a lovely ballad and the horn work in support of the sax is, for me, excellent and does not overwhelm the melody.
‘Episodes’ opens with a piano ostinato over-which the horns introduce the central theme before we hear the solo sections from Håkan Nyqvist on French horn and Erik Palmberg on flugelhorn. The contrasting tones are very interesting, particularly as the French horn is not a common sound in jazz music. Torbjörn Gulz on piano adds another sound texture to the mix that works very well indeed. Örjan Hultén, Filip Augustson, Torbjörn Gulz, are the listed soloists on ‘Abundance’ but they are there as a trio from the outset and sound wonderful. There are some well-delivered drum sections from Henrik Jäderberg that act as link pieces to the overall tune.
The album’s title track is next in the running order with trumpet and sax listed as the solists. I very much enjoyed the trumpet playing of Erik Palmberg, always in control no matter what part of the register he was playing in. The same could be said of Örjan Hultén on alto, who plays some delightful little runs. The tempo is slowed down for ‘I’ve Seen’ written by the late Lars Gullin. This is a captivating melody using Erik Palmberg on flugelhorn and Eva-Tea Lundberg on French horn for the solo slots with excellent support from pianist Torbjörn Gulz.
In terms of arranging style, and overall sound profile, ‘Seagulls’ takes its inspiration from what has gone before: the gorgeous tone from trombonist Sven Berggrén, controlled playing from saxophonist Örjan Hultén and the wonderful piano lines from Torbjörn Gulz all backed by the bass of Filip Augustson and drumming from Henrik Jäderberg. Inside Looking Out is an album of “thoughtful, personal and well-written arrangements by Håkan Nyqvist”. Inside Looking Out also has “exciting soloists from the members [that] makes this group stand out.” Inside Looking Out is also a terrific example of new compositions written by someone who understands the jazz tradition but is not overawed by the jazz tradition.
I thoroughly enjoyed this album with its big sound, wonderful tonal colouring, and excellent solo work. The playlist is nicely balanced in terms of tempo and style and the two non Nyqvist compositions are very well arranged, as in fact is the whole album. This is my first time of hearing Håkan Nyqvist but I really do hope that it is not my last. As a result of listening to this music, I shall probably revisit, or seek out, more of the music written by those who have influenced Håkan Nyqvist because the upshot of that influence is one very good album indeed.
Inside Looking Out can be downloaded from prestomusic from 21st April or purchased as a physical CD from 12th May. You will also be able to stream the album via the qobuz store from the 21st.
For more from Håkan Nyqvist on Horncraft and Inside Looking Out do check out the interview he did with London Jazz News.
Musicians: Håkan Nyqvist and Eva-Tea Lundberg – french horns; Erik Palmberg – trumpet and flugelhorn; Örjan Hultén – tenor and soprano sax; Sven Berggrén – trombone; Torbjörn Gulz – piano; Filip Augustson – bass; Henrik Jäderberg – drums.
Tracklist: 1. New View, soloists: Erik Palmberg – trumpet, Torbjörn Gulz – piano, Örjan Hultén – soprano sax. 2. Passwords, soloists: Filip Augustson – bass, Sven Berggrén – trombone, Torbjörn Gulz – piano. 3. Naima, soloist: Örjan Hultén – sax 4. Episodes, soloists: Håkan Nyqvist – french horn, Erik Palmberg – flugelhorn. 5. Abundance, soloists: Örjan Hultén – tenor sax, Filip Augustson – bass, Torbjörn Gulz – piano. 6. Inside Looking Out, soloists: Erik Palmberg – trumpet, Örjan Hultén – soprano sax. 7. I`ve Seen, soloists: Erik Palmberg – flugelhorn, Eva-Tea Lundberg – French horn. 8. Seagulls, soloists: Sven Berggrén – trombone, Örjan Hultén – tenor sax, Torbjörn Gulz – piano.
All compositions by Håkan Nyqvist except ‘Naima’ by John Coltrane and ‘I’ve Seen’ by Lars Gullin.