Finnish bassist and composer Jan-Olof Strandberg is certainly no stranger to me. When you review albums such as Made In Finland (2012, see review) made by Strandberg Project and Paidarion's latest album Behind The Curtains (2011, see review) you know right away that he is one of the best musicians in the world who handles the bass guitar and that he can play any kind of musical genre proved by the list of musicians he has worked with. Besides the names mentioned above, he worked with Bianca Morales, Steel City, Timo Turpeinen, Mel Gaynor & The Fusion Project and the Tommi Varjola Trio. One of the musicians he had worked with recently was Armand Sabal-Lecco. He is a native of Cameroon but is now a US-based bassist and composer. He came to the world's awareness through his cooperation with Paul Simon but Armand has also performed and recorded with Stewart Copeland, Stanley Clarke, Don Grusin, Ringo Starr, Peter Gabriel, Lionel Richie, as well as countless other artists.
Both musicians released in early 2015-as Jan-Olof Strandberg & Armand Sabal-Lecco Project-the album Live In Finland 2015. This release was recorded at Sellosali and SV Studio between April-November 2014 and was produced by Jan-Olof Stranderg and Sami Virtanen.
During the more that one hour long disc, you can hear what both musicians wanted to achieve with their music. They wanted to create a mix between Armand's rich musical background in traditional African music to American funk, reggae and jazz and Jan-Olof's more Western and North-European approach of playing jazz rock, progressive rock and fusion. Their way of playing and improvising differs a lot and can certainly be heard on all of the songs on this disc which were recorded during concerts, except the first track, which is a studio recording. It's obvious that Armand Sabal-Lecco's compositions Gizga and Couscous Clan have more elements taken from traditional African music, jazz, American funk and reggae. Therefore it wasn't a surprise that the elements taken from jazz rock, progressive rock and fusion can be heard on Jan-Olof Strandberg's compositions Behind The Curtains, Two Sisters and Dominique. The first title was of course was taken from the earlier mentioned Paidarion album.
With two bass players in the line-up I wasn't surprised to hear on Live In Finland 2015 mainly a showcase of both bassists. They improvised and played solos on their instruments throughout the entire album leaving hardly any room for the other musicians in the band to show their talents as well. That the other musicians are just pawns on a chessboard you just can't say. Jukka Gustavson is a legendary keyboard player, well-known for his solo projects and the group Wigwam. Occasionally, he gets room to shine with the more rock orientated musician Sami Virtanen. Sami handles here the guitars and did some of the keyboard parts as well. Finally the band includes Jartsa Karvonen, who is one of the most used drummers in Finland.
This collaboration between two big-league bass players Armand Sabal-Lecco and Jan-Olof Strandberg worked very well according to the things I heard on Live In Finland 2015. Although I do know that this release is not a typical album which will be bought massively by lovers of progressive rock music. The instrumental music that you hear on the ten tracks have too little to offer for them. But if you love improvised music, playing on the bass guitar and most of all a mix of music taken from genres such as traditional African music, American funk, reggae, jazz rock, fusion and jazz, you have to buy this release without a doubt.
*** Henri Strik (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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