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KOOP



With Waltz for KOOP, their sophomore LP and first for Jazzanova Compost Records (later licensed to Quango/Palm for North America), the Swedish duo of Magnus Zingmark and Oscar Simonsson, aka KOOP, have produced a benchmark recording in the evolution of what is often called "nu-jazz." Prefixes - from "pseudo" to "soulful" - have been cast by the wayside. No longer content with being "jazzy" or "jazz-inflected," this is pure jazz. It's not the jazz you might expect either; like Prefuse 73's Scott Herren, the men of KOOP draw their sound from strictly pre-fusion sources. The result is the swinging Latin-tinged sound of breezy ease, more Getz and Gilberto than Airto and Flora.

Coupled with some superior vocal contributions, KOOP's walking bass and woodwind arrangements make for a bubbly tonic so flawlessly intoxicating as to turn Burt Bacharach green with envy as he floats up, up and away in his beautiful balloon. It's an entire album that plays like a Ken Nordine ode to toe tapping in a flowery meadow. The now-classic title track and album opener features the amazing pipes of Cecilia Stalin, a breathy mix of Astrud Gilberto and the mind-blowing range of Minnie Ripperton, gliding over a lovingly restrained backdrop with just a touch of strings.

Even in the album's heaviest moment, jazz folkster Terry Callier offers testament to Waltz For KOOP's indomitable levity, spreading the darkly seductive balm of his velvet voice all over the electro-Caribbean slow-burn of "In a Heartbeat," but even here discovering an airy and spaciousness that allows him to scat about with a freestyle spontaneity. Similarly, the creepy lounge croon of Earl Zinger on "Modal Mile" is buoyed along by an effervescent vibraphone worthy of MJQ. The aptly named "Summer Sun," featuring teenage vocalist Yukimi Nagano, is perhaps the album's true highpoint, its ultimate expression of electronically updated easy-swinging '60s ecstasy, Nagano's voice imparting a completely joyous insouciance as a backing piano competes for the title of the happiest sound in jazz. It may be an unwinnable battle, as each opponent is well-nigh invincible, but the true victor here is the listener, who need not choose favorites as she lets KOOP's stylish sunshine melt away her blues.

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