Kristófer Rodriguez Svönuson – “Primo” (2019)

Kristófer Rodriguez Svönuson is no stranger to the Icelandic music scene, the percussionist well-known for contributing beats to various jazz and big band combos. But his new release, Primo, gives him the opportunity to call the shots, and I’ll tell you this – he runs the table.

If I have to put a stylistic label on the music, it’s probably Latin jazz. But there’s more here, much more. Certainly there are South American influences, but also Caribbean and more than a hint of reggae as well, a dash of salsa, a splash of bop, all of it coming together in pure groovy perfection on “Combo Macondo”, a brilliant jam that you wish would simply go on forever. Not surprisingly, the percussion work on Primo sets the tone, Svönuson’s arrangements mixing styles and instruments to change the mood and provide the foundation on which the various guest artists can participate. The side A closer “Interlude” is almost (but not quite) percussion free, but even here the slight wisps of skins season the horns just right, like that perfect pinch of salt on a freshly grilled steak. The B side is bit more restrained, as if the A side was daytime and the B side was evening. The pace is slower, the temperature cooler. One side is rum punch, the other is scotch on the rocks. Both enjoyable, just in different ways.

If you’re looking for a copy of Primo, the best place to start is probably Reykjavik’s Lucky Records – the shop put the record out under their own Lucky Records label, so they’re bound to have it in stock.