A Midsummer Odyssey: The Music of Lars Gullin
Toka Voka Oka Boka - 4:08
Igloo - 2:55
Danny’s Dream - 3:03
BBC Blues - 4:43
Mazurka - 2:33
Dyningar - 4:49
Silhouette - 4:07
I min smala säng - 3:37
I Hope It’s Spring for You - 4:11
Randal Despommier - alto saxophone
Ben Monder - guitar
Alto saxophonist Randal Despommier offers with A Midsummer Odyssey, a captivating duo session with guitarist extraordinaire Ben Monder. The central focus is the highly accessible yet always enigmatic music of Swedish baritone saxophonist Lars Gullin (1928-1976).
It was a chance encounter with “Danny’s Dream,” a lithe and melodic piece played for Despommier by his friend Olof Lövmo in Italy in 2005, that sparked the altoist’s deep and longstanding interest in Gullin. Despommier describes the tune as “a mix between a Norse folk-song arrangement by Edvard Grieg and a Billy Strayhorn ballad.” Having triggered the process that would ultimately lead to A Midsummer Odyssey, Lövmo fittingly took on the role of assistant producer.
In this intimate context, Despommier’s poise and inventiveness on alto recalls the late Lee Konitz, one of Gullin’s collaborators. His effortless blend with Monder leads to many magical moments, such as the rubato reverie “Mazurka” and the lush ballads “Silhouette” and “I Hope It’s Spring for You.” Noting that Gullin never traveled to the United States, Despommier argues that “Gullin was drawing on Swedish folk music the same way American jazz musicians were feeding off blues and spirituals. Whether goatherders or sheep come to mind, this Swedish tinge gives Gullin’s music unique flavor and identity. It permeates his music in a way that feels soulful and authentic.” Those qualities ring out clear in the hands of Despommier and Monder, who have created a transcendent space for Gullin’s subtle writing in the lexicon of 21st-century jazz.