4WD is a European jazz supergroup — Nils Landgren, Michael Wollny, Wolfgang Haffner and Lars Danielsson. All four members are bandleaders in their own right, hence the band name. The studio version came out earlier this year; they’ve toured it, got better and recorded it.
Note it’s the band that’s live: this is not alive recording of the studio album, though there is some overlap. The opener is the title track and the signature sound for the band 4WD. Although it starts off with piano, it morphs into a jazz track so solid that Jeremy Clarkson could test drive it, and mutter about grunt and poke. It has a lot of poke.
First play through, mid-way, we thought this was going to be a great album: the band is in a groove and it all hits a sweet spot, the players and the music as good as it can be.
However, it could be their European sense of humour but they love covering dad-rock tunes and these introduce a more variable air to proceedings.
That’s All by Genesis becomes a gentle piano tune sounding nothing like the plodding original; top marks for that one. However: they cover Shadows in the Rain and If You Love Somebody Set Them Free, both by Sting. We’re all in favour of surprisingly muscular jazz takes on bland rock classics but both of these tracks (from the Dream of the Blue Turtles album) are jazz-based to begin with, and Sting was at the peak of his powers;
Omar Hakim plays drums and Branford Marsalis saxophone on the originals. Hakim’s clever groove on Shadows is particularly memorable but 4WD drop it down to a pounding beat that’s more Phil Collins. The groove on the track 4WD is not a million miles from the Hakim, maybe that’s why.
Original tracks also include the initially bass-heavy Polygon that’s as much funky prog as jazz (and was possibly inspired by Shadows, as the melody is quite similar).
The studio album just nudges it for us but if you want some muscular rock / jazz, try the live offering.
Out now on ACT, 9895-2.
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