Niels Jørgen Steen’s Beatkapell - The Åhus Concert

Mike Szajewski, WNUR

For those of you who thought you knew the Ayler Records sound, give this album a listen.

Likely catching most be surprise, this set was recorded in the summer of 1973 at the Åhus Jazz Festival in Sweden, known as a showcase for more straight ahead American jazz, hosting the likes of Ben Webster and Gene Ammons in the same year. Although this album doesn't represent a landmark accomplishment in avant-garde music, it captures an irresistibly catchy day of swinging, joyous music during one of those outings when the band and the audience are completely immersed in the fun of the music (just listen to the end of the set for proof.)

The leader here is Danish pianist, who was 34 at the time of the recording, and heavily featured is saxophonist and fellow Dane Jesper Thilo, who went on to record with Miles Davis and Hank Jones much later in his career. Thilo also takes the mic on a few American blues tunes, including the final piece, a tune called "Flat Foot Floogie" written and originally performed by American jazz/novelty singer Bulee "Slim" Gaillard in the 1930's.
Fascinating here is the ability of the Scandinavian players to pay homage to and have fun with the American culture that had provided the foundation for the appreciation and popularity of jazz in Europe during the 1960's and 70's, and the audience certainly enjoyed it.

Ove Rex's chugging along on the guitar perfectly rounds off the group's sound, and bassist Red Mitchell's guest appearance as a scat vocalist adds another spark to this release.

Kudos to Jan Strom and Ayler Records of recognizing the merit in this gem of a performance.

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