WELCOME TO THE SMOOTH JAZZ RIDE! * WELCOME TO THE SMOOTH JAZZ RIDE! * WELCOME TO THE SMOOTH JAZZ RIDE!

Soweco — Keep On

Oct. 10, 2017

Swedish group Soweco’s latest release, Keep On, opens with one of those old skool “boof-dap’s” that we used to enjoy way back. You know, one of those drops that makes you leave your seat or quit hugging the wall. Makes you get to your feet ‘n’ go have a ball, do that two-step shuffle like you do once more!

This album could be a lost gem from the nineties. A time when soul music was a little more “composed” then it is today. Keyboardist Mattias Roos and drummer Peter Gustafsson put the Soweco collective together back in 2011, and here on their second release, they have crafted an album of good old-fashioned soul music. This album is packed full of delightful two-steps, gentle boogies and delicate, sad harmonies that make it hard to believe this comes from a group of Swedish musicians!

The outstanding vocals of Fredric “Frosche” Renmark really make this recording. He’s like a cross between Frankie Beverley and Alan Gorrie from the AWB. His vocal style and phrasing is clean and clear and his range is superb, from delicate falsettos to an understated throaty growl and, throughout, he is beautifully framed by Roos’ arrangements.

This is quite simply a top-quality soul album. There are touches of jazz in here, but they are the ribbons that enclose these soulful gems. “Don’t Hide Your Love” showcases the terrific vocals of the aforementioned Renmark. There are some great gentle head-nod hook lines everywhere. “Way Up High” is delightful, and the groove just glides; full of falsetto vocals and background tinkling bells (“Strawberry Letter 23,” anyone?) before being interrupted by a piercing guitar solo that races along before sliding back down to hide behind the groove. It’s the kind of tune that you want to be driving to, your drop-top down while rolling along, cliff-top cruising with your honey.

“Let the Rain Fall Down” has another exquisite guitar solo that’s brief yet really lifts this tune out of the ordinary. “Your Love” is a slightly heavier take on the soul tip and, on the fade-out, Renmark’s vocals echo Ben E King, and you half-expect to hear the words “Supernatural Thing,“ but they never come. Other tracks like “Good Old Loving” are destined to be late-night radio favourites. Just a great tune. Simple and well done.

U-Nam’s involvement is a mark of how highly these guys are regarded. This is the perfect project for U-Nam to be involved with, given his undoubted love of the Old Skool groove. His touch is very evident on the tracks that he produced. The first single and title track must surely have been a misplaced 12” from the mid-nineties.

Look, if, like me, you spent that decade enjoying the likes of Maze, Tashan, and Maxwell; then, you will like this album. It’s not a smooth jazz album, but it is a really, really good soul album. – Steve Giarchardi