The Swedish Sax Septet, Riff-Ola

Chris Nickson

By Chris Nickson

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
Saxes of various sizes tackle Swedish pieces normally played by fiddles.

There's something delightfully off-kilter about Riff-Ola. It's not just hearing saxes of various sizes tackle Swedish pieces normally played by fiddles, although that's a treat in itself, but in the way they slide between the formality of the folk melodies and the small jazz improvisations that seem to sneak in before running merrily off again. There's a great good humour to it all, as if the musicians are relishing every second — just listen to "Limping Waltz" to get the idea. They have enough grounding in the tradition to subvert it, as on "Anders Patricks Boogie Polska," which takes the dance form in a totally unexpected midnight bluesy direction. There's a deftness of touch and delightfully complex arrangements, as on the filigreed "The Two-Year Polska," where the lines delicately dance figures around each other. Far more than a novelty, this brings out the loveliness of the old (and new) melodies in a different context.