Toppklass: No.1

Young Swedes aim for music without "frames or limitations" but in fact produce shapely guitar-led pieces touching on blues, country and more

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Immodestly – or ironically? – titled as it is, this is another interesting and refreshing release from the independent AMP label, whose The Watercolors (AT 092) and Head Bopper (AT 093) I reviewed. Toppklass’s No. 1 continues the focus on up-and-coming Nordic musicians evinced by those releases. Its two women/one man personnel fashion an often nimble, but also reflective programme of their own melodically and rhythmically engaging material.

Based in the Gothenburg area, these three youngish Swedes have played together long enough to have developed the fine three-way understanding shown here. The accompanying press release suggests that “Toppklass is a jazz trio with their own songs and their own rules […] formed with the intention of ​ creating music without frames or limitations, as an effort to move away from the classical roles that belong to each instrument. Toppklass is a guitar trio, and also a bass trio and a drum trio.”

Like many a JJ reader, I would imagine, I have come across such thoughts and ambitions before. In fact, the idea of a music “without frames or limitations” does no justice to the attractively shaped character of these pieces, as elegant as they are vibrant, and commanding attention throughout.

The programme ranges from the opening, up-and-grooving Blues With Shoes (where the simultaneously cutting and mellow edge of Ekeberg’s guitar sound shines, as also on Outro and Gäsborn) through the reverie-rich, rubato-sustained Nordic mood of the beautiful if strangely titled Kcwpk and the old-time bounce of the concluding, niftily cooking and humorous To The Topz!

Each musician is an excellent instrumentalist, coming across as both ultra-focused and relaxed while contributing to a shape-shifting whole that is as spacy and tasty as is literate and lucid . To my ears, this stimulating music sits well within – and refreshes – that splendid Swedish tradition which ranges from, say, Janne Schaffer to Göran Klinghagen and beyond. Enjoy!

Discography
Blues With Shoes; Fjällgatan; Kjsa; Outro; Kcwpk; Gäsborn; Vad Skal Vi Göra Nu? To The Topz! (37.15)
Johan Ekeberg (elg); Boel Mogensen (b); Maria Dahlin (d). Törresröd, Sweden, 21 June 2021.
AMP AT 0119