In 1890, Pontus, the starving writer, wanders the streets of Christiania, in search of love and a chance to get his work published. All he meets is defeat and suffering while his sense of reality is withering. One moment his is delighted and the next he curses everybody. All the time he manages to maintain human dignity and pride.
Swedish trombonist Eje Thelin and French tenor saxophonist Barney Wilen were two of the top European jazz musicians for several decades before their deaths in the 1990s. They first joined forces briefly in Thelin's quartet in 1963. Based in bop and earlier forms of jazz, Thelin and Wilen were open to freer improvising and music from other countries. In 1966 they joined forces, and two sessions are included on the 1966 With Barney Wilen CD. The first one features a quintet with pianist Lars Sjösten, bassist Erik Lundborg, and drummer Rune Carlsson that is joined by eight brass, bass clarinet, and flute for four inventive Thelin originals. While those performances are excellent, it is the other five numbers (which include second versions of a pair of Thelin's tunes plus "It Could Happen to You" and "Dear Old Stockholm") that are of greatest interest. The playing by the pianoless quartet (comprised of Thelin, Wilen, Carlsson, and bassist Palle Danielsson) is looser and freer with plenty of fireworks occurring in the often intuitive music. This set is easily recommended, particularly to listeners who are not aware that talented Europeans had been playing creative jazz for decades.
This album is quite unusual. Recorded shortly after Nat King Cole's death, pianist Oscar Peterson takes vocals on all but one of the dozen selections, sounding almost exactly like Cole. Peterson, who rarely ever sang, is very effective on the well-rounded program, whether being backed by a big band (arranged by Manny Albam) on half of the selections or re-creating both the spirit of the Nat King Cole Trio and his own group of the late '50s during a reunion with guitarist Herb Ellis and bassist Ray Brown.