This is a good introduction to the remarkable Lars Gullin, a masterful baritone sax player, writer, arranger, and a key figure in Sweden's jazz scene. The CD, which combines the LPs Baritone Sax from 1956 and Lars Gullin Swings from 1958, presents Gullin as a complete musician and provides insight into the small but dynamic Swedish jazz community of the 1950s and '60s. The performances show that Gullin and his gifted colleagues had thoroughly absorbed bop, Basie-style swing, and the West Coast sound, transforming these influences into a style of their own. Throughout, Gullin's playing is the equal of any of his contemporaries. His light sound and touch, and occasionally discursive phrasing, suggest Gerry Mulligan as an obvious reference point, but Gullin's technical command and improvising power make him an original. The settings range from quartets to big bands, the same players combining and recombining to form the various groups. Gosta Theselius's big band arrangements are thoughtful, fluid structures that shift and develop seamlessly between ensemble passages and solo space. Gullin's own arrangements for the smaller groups are also impressive, and his three originals are high points. While Gullin is the featured player, there are excellent solos from pianist Rune Ofwerman, trombonist Ake Persson, and alto player Arne Domnerus. Ofwerman, drummer Nils-Bertil Dahlander and bassist George Riedel (except three tracks where Bengt Carlsson is the bassist) form the terrifically cohesive rhythm section that ignites and animates these performances.
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AllMusic Review by Jim Todd