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This Is Harry: The Mystery Band

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Harry Arnold
Harry, in the case of this post's title, is Harry Arnold. Drawing a blank? Arnold was among the finest big-band arrangers and tenor saxophonists in Sweden during the 1950s and '60s. From 1956 to 1965, Arnold led the Swedish Radio Big Band that featured many of the country's finest Swedish jazz musicians. They recorded several albums, including This Is Harry and the Mystery Album. It's a punchy album and one of the finest big band recordings of 1957.

Arnold began recording in Sweden in 1945, and his major arranging influences during the 1950s were Benny Carter, Sy Oliver and Quincy Jones, who collaborated with Arnold in 1958. A year before working again with Jones during his visit to Stockholm, (Jones's first visit was in 1953 with Lionel Hampton's band), Arnold recorded Mystery Band, his radio orchestra's first album. If I were to give you a blindfold test, you'd never guess the arranger or the band. But you'd be blown away.

In fact, getting experts to guess the band is exactly what Down Beat did when the album came out in the fall of '58. American critics and arrangers were asked who's playing. None of them guessed right, including Ernie Wilkins, Elliot Lawrence, Sy Oliver and radio announcer Willis Conover. All picked leading American bands and arrangers. When the album was released in the States, to coincide with a visit by Arnold, critics raved and Conover devoted an hour-long show to him.

Recorded in February 1957, the band included Sixten Eriksson, Weine Renliden, Bengt-Arne Wallin (tp); Arnold Johansson (tp,v-tb); Ake Persson, Andreas Skjold, George Vernon, Goran Ohlsson (tb); Arne Domnerus, Rolf Lindell (as); Carl-Henrik Norin, Bjarne Nerem (ts); Lennart Jansson (bar); Bengt Hallberg (p); Bengt Hogberg (g); Simon Brehm (b) and Egil Johansen (d).

The music is deceptively great. Sweden had and still has its fair share of superb jazz artists, but no Swedish band ever sounded as American as this one when it came to a bright, swinging, slam-bang sound. Harry Arnold died in 1971 at age 50.

JazzWax tracks: You'll find the swinging This Is Harry and the Mystery Band combined with tracks from assorted Arnold dates and sessions led by Quincy Jones in '58 here.

JazzWax clips: Here's Arnold's Stand By...

 

Here's Cuban Trombones...

 

And here's Crazy Rhythm...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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