“It has taken me 40 years to appreciate ABBA. Coming of age in the 1970s, I was opposed to Disco and Disco-related music. The music, of course, didn’t give the least damn what I though and still permeated my delicate musical psyche to the point that it became an integral part of my young adulthood. How ABBA would translate into the language of jazz might be best not considered. However, Dutch vocalist Judith Nijland had no such compunction, arranging a dozen of ABBAs songs into this tidy, well-programmed package. Using a standard acoustic jazz ensemble, Nijland ably transforms the ABBA songbook. This could have been one of those ambitious projects that so often go so wrong. But Nijland pulls it off, making “Waterloo,” “Head Over Heels,” and “Dancing Queen” sound fresh and new. Danny van Kessel proves the ideal catalyst to Nijland overt musicality. His playing is sparkling and sharp, directing the course for Nijland. Those of you, who are of a “certain age” enjoy this!
All About Jazz, C. Michael Bailey
ABBA’s music is the sound of Judith Nijland’s youth
“The female jazz vocalist came up with the rather audacious idea to jazz up twelve hits of the Swedish quartet. A risky venture, because everyone knows the original rather iconic versions.
That A Jazz Tribute to ABBA turned out to be so extraordinary excellent is a result of the studious, professional and creative way Nijland and her band arranged the songs.
In addition to her regular male band mates pianist Danny van Kessel, bass player Peter Althuis and drummer Arie den Boer; Judith also invited tenor saxophonist Yuri Honing, trumpeter Teus Nobel, pedal steel guitarist Harm van Sleen and Myrthe van de Weetering on violin as guest performers.
They bring some extra flavour in some of the already great sounding pieces with their solos.
But Judith’s elegant alt is what really prevails here.
Instantly recognisable melodies makes ABBA songs as special as they are and Judith wisely does not touch them. She just slightly adjusted a few lyrics.
What truly makes this album jazz is the guts to really let it swing or use a latin rhythm on several songs, making them sound very different than the original versions. I Have A Dream, Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! and Dancing Queen get a Samba feel in Nijland’s versions. Up tempo Eurovision song contest winner Waterloo has been transformed into a jazz ballad. Voulez-Vous is flawlessly translated into a French blues song. The magnificence lies in the fact that while listening to this album you truly forget the way Agnetha and Anni-Frid sang the songs and you do not miss the often bombastic arrangements of Benny and Bjorn. “
Jazzflits, Hans Invernizzi
ABBA on it’s way to a new world of music
“Jazz musicians constantly face the difficult task to showcase their music to a market that is not overflowing with enthusiasm for the genre. Radio 6 closing shop and the continuous decrease in venues where live jazz music is performed, are not exactly signs of an emerging market, in economic terms. Many musicians see themselves reluctantly forced to reach out to commercialism without losing their musical identity.
The newest production of the Judith Nijland and her band shows that combining jazz and a commercial touch, if handled inventive, can work well and reinforce one another in thus creating enrichment and expansion of the jazz idiom.
Applying a jazzy approach to the pop musical masterpieces of Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson is an excellent move. But to translate that into a modern jazz form that also works well with the general public is easier said than done.
Judith Nijland and her band accompanied by musical guests, excellently succeed in doing this.
While listening you will be surprised at each song’s melodic and lyrical approach. The latter is especially difficult because a lyric ultimately determines to a large extent the rhythmic form of the piece.
Arrangement and orchestration are also extremely original and never bore.
A highlight for example is the way that the Eurovision iconic song Waterloo has been cast in such a different harmonic and rhythmic approach that de facto a new composition was created. Besides that, the song is also beautifully framed by saxophonist Yuri Honing.
The same applies to one of ABBA’s biggest hits: Dancing Queen. Rhythm changes to a samba groove and tight trumpet play by Teus Nobel create a new melody that still remains recognisable without any concession.
Thank You For The Music transforms a verse from the original version into a rubato verse, culminating into an enticing upbeat piece.
Original orchestration is also used for Voulez-Vous, that opens on a Pink Martini like way with bowed bass, bass drum beat and a pedal steel guitar. Ideas like that don’t dawn on just anybody.
In short, no musical means were left untouched to interpret Bjorn and Benny’s work in this very musical way.
In the event of a sequel I would strongly advocate the relatively unknown composition, Elaine. I personally consider that to be the best composition of duo B&B.
Chapeau for this very original musical production!”
Bob van Eekhout, jazz reviewer
“A tribute, at best, results in the listener getting to know the work that the homage is being paid to in a different way and thereby getting an appreciation for the artist creating the tribute, thus conceiving an interest for the artist’s other own material.
Jazz musicians paying tribute to rock and pop musicians can have rather unfortunate results (take Pat Boone’s In A Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice) but also glorious takes (such as Paul Anka’s rousing big band arrangements on ‘Rock Swings’)
On A Jazz Tribute To ABBA, alto singer Judith Nijland has stripped more and less well-known ABBA songs from their electric, bombastic arrangements and redesigned them in a relatively calibrated jazz idiom. Very successful in the tribute is the way she refreshingly revived several songs. Summer Night City, partly due to the bugle game of Teus Nobel, is turned into a delightfully relaxed song and together with saxophonist Yuri Honing Waterloo is now a beautiful jazz ballad. Some pieces are even, to speak in the words of the late Gerrit Komrij, irreparably improved: Thank You For The Music is so well arranged that it sounds more like ABBA has taken Judith Nijland’s song than vice versa.
Nijland’s golden touch, together with her arrangers, has not worked on every song. The very peaceful shaping of Dancing Queen clashes with the message in the lyrics and Gimme Gimme Gimme without it’s rousing beat does not surpass the original. However Judith Nijland’s sophisticated ability to interpret and the striking performance of her band might not be equally successful on every song, but nevertheless always keep it interesting and not only shed a new light on ABBA’s work but also peek further interest in Judith Nijland’s future material.”