Mats Almgren – “Mats Almgren Sings Billy Eckstine” album

March 30, 2016 at 5:19 pm

Mats Almgren

Normally we can hear Mats Almgren’s deep bass voice on the opera scene, often in a Wagner play. Here he’s thrown himself into a completely different context, though, by recording a collection of jazz standards, written in the 30’s and later. For the first time in nearly 20 years he also gets to collaborate with his two brothers, the jazz musicians Owe och Björn Almgren.

The combination of opera and jazz is hardly new; George Gerschwin proved that it works perfectly in “Porgy and Bess”. Still, many are sceptical when operasingers get into jazz, pop or rock, as we’ve heard some failed attempts from famous opera stars. Mats Almgren knows what he’s doing, though. He chose to look at crooner Billy Eckstine’s repertoire, a song collection which fits him quite well as Eckstine also had a deep and powerful voice, making the songs’ keys perfect for Almgren. Eckstine also had some operatic tendencies in his vocals when he sang, and had the power to be heard over an orchestra without a microphone, just like an opera singer.

Almgren creates his very own style from this, though. He breaks free from the opera’s precision very smoothly when he glides over the tones in a most natural way. He’s got a wonderful feeling for the material as he shows a dynamic in the songs where every word and sentence is filled with its own character and meaning. I think the most emotional songs are the slowest ones, like the starting “My Foolish Heart”, but there are no weak tracks here. Behind him is a band of skilled jazz musicians, who also get some space for their cool, inspired jazz, which makes the album feel even more vibrant. You hear his brothers Owe and Björn on bass and saxophone respectively, and also Sven-Eric ”Svenna” Dahlberg on piano and Göran Kroon on drums. Here are three songs from the album:

Mats Almgren on Spotifyon Apple Music

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