Four is a winner: that was the unanimous opinion of critics and audiences alike on the first album from German-Swedish supergroup 4 Wheel Drive. The eponymous debut disc from this band of bandleaders went straight to the top spot as best-selling jazz album in Germany for2019. And the media didn’t hold back with their praise either: “Four first-league jazz musicians with pure joy of playing and a love of good pop music”, said ZDF’s “heute-journal” about this spirited and enjoyable group, which combines trombonist/singer Nils Landgren, pianist Michael Wollny, bassist/cellist Lars Danielsson and drummer Wolfgang Haffner. AllAboutJazz, a leading American jazz website, asked whether this album might be worth adding to a listener’s collection, and answered the question succinctly:”4 sure”.

The same is manifestly true of the quartet’s second studio album (there was also a live concert recording “4 Wheel Drive Live” in between, released in October 2019). In “4 Wheel Drive II”, it is evident that things have shifted up a gear right from the start, with the rock-y, pulsating opening track “Chapter II”, straight from Wollny’s compositional workbench. Landgren likes to let his trombone roar like a sports car engine. In similarly dynamic vein are pieces like Danielsson’s final track of the album “The Wheelers”, which, thanks to Haffner’s nimble brushwork, makes you think you’re on a high-speed train, or indeed Wollny’s powerfully swinging “Spring Dance”.

Compared to the first album, there has been another change, an increase in the proportion of original compositions written by all of the participants, as Lars Danielsson, who has contributed a sensitive, poppy ballad to the new album “Just Another Hour”, remarks. Interpretations of worldwide hit songs were a factor behind the huge success of the debut album, but the ratio to original compositions here is getting closer to 50:50. That said, the fuel powering 4 Wheel Drive has remained the same: this band is all about creating music from deep within, and with like-minded people whom you can absolutely and implicitly trust to be in the driving seat. “It just flows,” enthuses drummer Haffner, “we’re a group of close friends with nothing we need to prove, we can just go for it. I’ve had so many magic moments with this band, it really is incredible!”

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