Nils Landgren Funk Unit with Ray Parker Jr. – Unbreakable
(ACT Music 9039-2. CD Review by Adrian Fry)
Swedish trombonist Nils Landgren has had an impressive career spanning over four decades and encompassing many genres. This album is by his Funk Unit, which was formed in the early nineties and quickly became known outside Scandinavia, in Germany and across Europe.
Landgren is no stranger to collaborations with international artists, having performed on hundreds of albums by the likes of The Crusaders, Herbie Hancock and ABBA. It is therefore no surprise that five of the tracks feature the guitar and voice of one of his stellar American contemporaries, Ray Parker Jr., nor that Randy Brecker and Tim Hagans were called upon provide a couple of uniquely stylish trumpet solos.
This is predominantly a jazz-funk vocal album, which is delivered by a band who are clearly a Unit in both name and nature; tight and well-rehearsed yet still laid-back and above all, funky. Landgren’s transatlantic vocals are delivered with panache, and his trombone playing is dexterous and inventive. The numbers are mostly NLFU originals which sit well alongside the three soul/funk classics; Marvin Gaye’s Rockin’ After Midnight, Allen Toussaint’s Just A Kiss Away and Herbie Hancock’s Stars In Their Eyes which are a good indication of the overall flavour of the album. There are fine solos from all concerned and the production is dry and clean, with a few unexpected moments such as the contemporary R&B vocal and processed trumpet on the Gaye track.
Whilst this music might not be ground-breaking, it’s a respectful, well-executed nod to the history of the genre. If for example you like the kind of jazz-funk pioneered by The Crusaders, Herbie Hancock and George Benson, then this should get your foot tapping and put a smile on your face.