Hot on the heels of his guest appearance on Mo’ Blow‘s funky Live In Berlin (ACT Music, 2016), trombonist and singer Nils Landgren moves over to Broadway with Some Other Time. As the sub-title makes clear, this is A Tribute To Leonard Bernstein—a worthy and at times achingly beautiful tribute, too.
Landgren is joined by The Manhattan Transfer vocalist Janis Siegel and by the excellent rhythm section of Jan Lundgren on piano, Dieter Ilg on bass and Wolfgang Haffner on drums. The Bochum Symphoniker, conducted by arranger Vince Mendoza, joins in on a few tracks including “Overture: America” a 42-second introduction that gives the erroneous impression that this album will solely focus on West Side Story.
Landgren’s light, sweet-toned and often plaintive voice suits the more romantic numbers particularly well. It lacks the undertone of aggression that could have given “Cool” a degree of menace, but the cat-creep rhythm that Lundgren, Ilg and Haffner set down more than compensates—it’s somehow sexy and slightly menacing at the same time. On the other hand, Landgren’s vocal on “Somewhere” is so melancholy that it brings a tear to the eye—once again, the rhythm section’s empathic performance is superb.
Landgren’s trombone playing is a constant pleasure. On “Maria,” which gets a fine arrangement from Mendoza, he’s swinging and upbeat, on “Somewhere” his playing is gentle and spacious, on “Lucky To Be Me” his solo is brief but replete with good-humored charm.
Siegel is an excellent choice of guest vocalist for these songs. Her duet with Landgren on Mendoza’s arrangement of “Some Other Time” is the strongest of her appearances but her solo vocal on “The Story Of My Life” and “Lucky To Be Me” run it pretty close.
If Some Other Time does have a weakness, it’s in the choice of some of the lesser-known numbers. Despite Mendoza’s arrangements “A Quiet Girl” and the instrumental “A Simple Song,” though pleasant, never really come to life especially when compared to the rest of the program.