normally don’t begin a review with anything negative. The idea is to sell
a recording, not make people flee from it. However, I must say that
Johannes Zetterberg’s Painter’s Portrait (Innate Grove Records,
2011) has one annoying element. The combination of small print, red
lettering and black background makes it difficult, if not impossible, to
read who’s doing what on the odd-numbered tracks.
That’s only a problem because I’m a liner notes geek. When I hear
something interesting in the background or a cool solo, I want to know who
did it. The font used for the song titles isn’t much better, but at least
with black letters on white, or vice-versa, it’s less of a challenge.
Reading issues aside, Zetterberg’s composing and performance are
impressive. From prologue, “Ghost of a Second,” to epilogue, “The Coming
Storm,” the 25-year-old from Stockholm, Sweden, follows his highly
acclaimed debut, Luna Nueva, with more excellence.
The title song features Zetterberg on fretless bass, keyboards and
programming. Yellowjackets member Bob Mintzer plays soprano sax. The
ethereal opening is countered by the twanging style of the bass once
Zetterberg takes over. Aron Mellergardh injects a broken-time pace on the
The funky “Rope Walk” follows, with Brandon Fields on alto saxophone. A
three-piece horn section adds depth. Contributions by Mellergardh,
percussionist Andreas Ekstedt and guitarist Eric Linder make this a
well-rounded piece. But the focus is mainly on Fields and Zetterberg, the
latter using the bass mostly as a rhythm instrument, but also putting the
keyboard out front.
Another dynamic piece is “Beyond Borders.” Ekstedt throws in some timbales
for a Latin vibe. The horn section punches in with vigor. Jens Flippson
plays alto and baritone saxes with the section, and delivers a cruising
flute lead. Steiner Aadnekvam follows with the acoustic, nylon-string
guitar. Linder adds some electric guitar fills toward the end.
Zetterberg grew up in a musical family, exposed to a variety of music at
an early age. He began playing bass at the age of 12 and later attended
Sodra Latins Gymnasiu’s music program.
Luna Nueva was a superb release, but Zetterberg found the five-year
process frustrating, and he feels that he stayed too much within the
pocket. Painter’s Portrait is more satisfying. Now that he’s
established, he is freer to explore different styles, and he accomplishes
that here, touching on smooth jazz, funk, fusion and Latin, as well as
incorporating other sounds.