Inspired (perhaps) by our Jan’s tips page, a number of Friends have been sending us their own album recommendations. Which is great. Their inclusion below doesn’t imply that FoJL (or Jan) agrees – or disagrees – with these tips; it’s for you to decide on the quality of what’s being recommended. But we think it’s fun to know what our members are enjoying when they’re not listening to Jan Lundgren. So if you’ve got an album that you just can’t get out of your head at the moment, please do email firstname.lastname@example.org with the details. It can be jazz, classical, pop, old, new or reissued – we don’t mind. The more off-beat and eclectic, the better.
22 June 2016: Worth being late for
Artist(s): Tomasz Stanko New York Quartet
FoJL tipster: Filip Auguston* in Stockholm, Sweden
What Filip says: “The first time I heard this album I was driving to an appointment. While I was parking the car, I heard the title track Wislawa played on the radio. I was immediatelly caught by the music and, because the tune is 12 minutes long, I was of course late for my appointment. What struck me was the beautiful composition, combined with its stunning performance by the four musicians. None of the four plays a tone too much: every tone has a meaning, and all the musicians extract the most wonderful sound from their instruments. Although Wislawa is the most significant track on the album, it’s a record that’s filled with Stanko’s great compositions, performed in the same fabulous way.”
Website: Tomasz Stanko
* Filip is one of Sweden’s busiest composers and bassists, playing with bands like Örjan Hultén Orion, Mats Öberg Trio, Velodrone, Le Jazz Cool and Monica Borrfors Quartet. He also his own trio, Viva Black, which has so far released two albums: the eponymous Viva Black (2015) and Minsta Gemensamma Nämnaren (2016). Go here to read some glowing reviews of Filip’s work, and find out more about the man himself at Filip’s website.
13 April 2016: A fascinating and mysterious journey
Artist: Mark Hollis
FoJL tipster: Peter Danemo* in Stockholm, Sweden
What Peter says: “Mark Hollis is mostly known as the lead singer of the group Talk Talk. Mark Hollis is his first and only solo album. During his years with Talk Talk, Hollis slowly changed the band’s music to a more sparse and acoustic sound – from a new romantic, synth-pop style towards something that’s a blend of classical, jazz and singer-songwriting.
“The music here sounds improvised and it’s loose, while silence is just as much a part of the musical expression as the notes being played. It’s acoustic music, using instruments common in both classical music and jazz. Everything was recorded in the same room, and you can hear the music ‘breathe’. The album begins with 18 seconds of silence. Then the piano starts with a soft chord and builds up the song slowly. After almost three minutes you can hear two clarinets playing something very soft and then they’re gone. The rest of the album takes you on a fascinating and mysterious journey. The orchestration is beautiful, and everything sounds very sincere and honest. Sometimes the music almost falls apart, as though no-one really knows what’s happening. The music draws you towards the silence and the power between the notes. It forces you to listen, and to accept the silence as an equal and valuable partner.
“I read somewhere that the album was recorded at night in candle light. I don’t know if this makes listening to the music any different. What it does tell me is that Hollis needed to get away from all the hustle and noises that we’re all surrounded by during the day – things like mobile phones and all the sounds a city makes. Personally, I can relate to that: I like working at night, and I like the sound of night time – all the small, soft sounds that are impossible to hear in the day, both around you and inside your head. Hollis is said to have spent seven years making the record. I admire that kind of dedication. He was searching for something. He didn’t give up. He kept on looking until he found what he wanted, and he used silence as the starting point for his search.
“All the songs sound as if they come from the ‘core’ – the core of Mark Hollis. I have no idea how these songs were written. To me, they sound like they’re being played for the first and only time with the utmost concentration and sincerity. This is not music that tries to impress the listener with its brilliance; it’s the opposite. No post-editing was done, and all the little mistakes that were made stayed there. It’s part of what makes the record so strong.
“There are some absolutely magical woodwind passages. For instance, the song A life starts with woodwinds playing something that sounds both improvised and written down at the same time. It’s fragile, as if the musicians are trying to play something they didn’t know before they started. The song creates itself as you are listening. Several of the tracks have a similar feel. It’s as though they were composed as they went along – improvised perhaps! Frankly, it doesn’t matter. On top of it all you’ve got Hollis’ unique voice, singing his heart out.
“I think this CD is one of the most fascinating albums I’ve encountered. The music is beyond categorisation – it’s just great music. After releasing this record in 1998, Mark Hollis disappeared from public sight. He hasn’t been seen since – no interviews, no explanations whatsoever. No-one knows if he’s still writing music or what he’s up to. Journalists have found out where he lives, but that’s about it.
“So, seat yourself in your favourite sofa or chair. Turn off your mobile and computer. Press play and close your eyes. As Hollis himself said: ‘Before you play two notes, learn how to play one note – and don’t play one note unless you’ve got a reason to play it’.”
Wikipedia: Mark Hollis
* Peter is a drummer and composer whose CV looks like a ‘Who’s who’ of Swedish and international jazz. One of his earliest collaborators, for example, was the late Esbjörn Svensson (of EST fame), and he’s worked with Kenny Drew, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, Clark Terry, Bobo Stenson and a host of other big names. Among Peter’s current projects is the Örjan Hultén Orion band, which has a great new album out called Fältrapport. Go to Peter’s website for more information about what he’s doing.
2 April 2016: Italian power, emotion and poetry
Artist: Dino Rubino
FoJL tipster: Paolo Fresu* in Bologna, Italy
What Paolo says: “Dino Rubino is a young and extraordinarily gifted Italian pianist and trumpet player who injects his music with great power and emotion. For me, Roaming Heart is a project of real maturity, a solo piano work with a very intimate inner poetry – deep and moving. I’d also highly recommend two earlier albums in Dino’s discography: Zenzi (2012), a trio recording he made as a tribute to the South African singer and civil rights activist Miriam Makeba; and Kairòs (2014), which is another fine example of Dino’s talents.”
Website (in Italian): Dino Rubino
* Paolo is, of course, the Italian third of the Mare Nostrum line-up with Jan and Richard Galliano (who, notwithstanding his surname, is actually French). One of Europe’s greatest jazz trumpeters and flugelhorn players, there’s hardly anyone Paolo hasn’t collaborated with on the Italian jazz scene – never mind the huge number of international luminaries he’s worked with. So he knows what he’s talking about.
7 March 2016: Simply fabulous
Artists: Karin Hammar Fab 4
FoJL tipster: Nils Landgren* in Stockholm, Sweden
What Nils says: “Karin is one of the fastest-rising stars on the Swedish jazz horizon. This is an album that’s well worth checking out, with Karin showing her skills not only as a trombone player, but also as a composer and arranger – all the songs except two bear her signature. Together with her fellow musicians in Fab 4, Imprints displays Karin’s art in making music, from subtle beauty to full power, and always marked by an underlying wit. She’s an artist who deserves wider recognition – the sooner the better!”
Interview (in Swedish): Karin Hammar
* Yes, it’s Mr Redhorn himself, Sweden’s greatest living trombonist and showman (since there may still be one or two people left in places like Tuvalu who aren’t quite sure who he is). Nils’ latest release is Some Other Time (2016, ACT), his tribute to the music of Leonard Bernstein which features, among others, Janis Siegel on vocals and a Swedish piano guy whose name currently escapes us.
22 February 2016: A top-notch duo
Artists: Kenny Barron & Dave Holland
FoJL tipster: Hans Backenroth* in Stockholm, Sweden
What Hans says: “The history of jazz has seen some wonderful duos – Jim Hall/Bill Evans, Slam Stewart/Don Byas and Chick Corea/Gary Burton, not to mention the great Red Mitchell with friends. A duo is often without a drummer and normally gets labelled ‘chamber jazz’ – soft, sweet and gentle. But a duo can have a wide range of dynamics, and as much energy and swing as a larger setting. The legendary bassist and jazz icon Ray Brown said that, in his opinion, the most swinging group Oscar Peterson ever had was Oscar’s with him and guitarist Herb Ellis (no drums …).
“About two years ago, Kenny Barron and Dave Holland got together in the studio and a new, top-notch duo was born. Ever since the late ‘60s they’ve both been in the front line of jazz: both virtuosos and major voices on their respective instruments. They’ve had a huge impact on many generations of musicians (in 2006 I had the pleasure of playing trio with Kenny, a lifetime moment …), and they always come out on top in popular votes by leading journals like Down Beat and Jazz Times. Although their paths have crossed many times over the years by, for example, accompanying other artists on recording dates, The Art Of Conversation is their first project together.
“You’ll find a broad spectrum of styles on this excellent album – a mix between original compositions and some well-chosen standards. Some of the originals have been recorded by Kenny’s and Dave’s own bands (or others) but, in this context, the songs get another flavour. This duo belongs to that exclusive category of musicians you can identify by hearing just two notes. Kenny and Dave have absolutely nothing to prove and the album title says it all: hearing them play is like a conversation between two long-time friends, relaxed and full of intuitive musical comments and spontaneity. But it’s also intense and full of energy, and their interplay and tremendous rhythmic rapport together make 69 minutes seem all-too short.
“Just a few notes: on the beautiful Waltz for Wheeler (Dave’s tribute to his old musical partner and friend), you can almost hear Kenny’s trumpet-voice in the music (I’m sure Kenny W would have loved this version), while listening to Dave play the melody on the waltz Rain is gorgeous. Kenny Barron is as ever the master and, in a duo setting like this one, reminds us why he’s the first-choice pianist in jazz – a wonderful accompanist and a soloist with a never-ending imagination. Just listen to his song The only one, dedicated to Thelonius Monk. Also, the sound is first class, captured by James Farber.
“For the last two years the duo has been touring all over the world, and they started their 2015 tour playing at Ystad Sweden Jazz Festival. Their concert was for both listeners and critics a major event in the festival ‘folklore’ of Ystad. It also made clear that the duo has a lot of new songs in its repertoire. Since both Kenny and Dave have full schedules, one really hopes they’ll find time to continue this duo and that a follow-up will be recorded soon. For those who haven’t yet heard them together, grab a copy of The Art Of Conversation as quickly as you can!”
* Hans has become something of a regular on this page. So you’ll probably already know that he’s one of Scandinavia’s very best double bass players, who records and performs with Jan (and many other fine artists) on an extremely frequent basis. Since his two-part lecture on the history of jazz bass at the 2015 Ystad Sweden Jazz Festival, Hans is also acquiring a growing reputation as the ‘go-to’ authority on both the instrument itself and its leading practitioners.
12 February 2016: True art
Artist: David Bowie
FoJL tipster: Elin Larsson Forkelid* in Stockholm, Sweden
What Elin says: “I originally planned on writing about a completely different album; a jazz album, for jazz listeners. But, since the loss of this amazing artist, I just felt the need to spread his music to people who may not be familiar with it. Hunky Dory is my favourite Bowie album. Released in 1971, it’s a 45 year old rock and roll record. But, to be honest, Hunky Dory is so much more than rock and roll. To me, this is true art. The songs on this album are complex, both musically and lyrically. They are full of metre changes and key changes. The arrangements are unique. The lyrics are abstract poetry. And Bowie’s vocal performance is so expressive you feel it in your stomach while listening. Bowie is also the man behind a few alto sax solos on the record. To me, these solos sound pretty much like a child learning to play the sax. But I would never change them for a more skilled player; they are perfect just the way they are. For those of you who have yet to discover the music of David Bowie, I so envy you. You have many meaningful moments ahead.”
Wikipedia: Hunky Dory
* Elin is a highly original and much-acclaimed saxophonist and composer. She won Sveriges Radio’s ‘Best newcomer’ award in 2009 and, in 2013, Sweden’s prestigious Gullin Prize. You can read more about Elin (in Swedish) here, and on her quintet’s website (in English) here.
3 February 2016: The cheese-meister shows his grown-up side
Artist: Jack Jones
FoJL tipster: Guy Jones in Stockholm, Sweden
What Guy says: “Poor old Jack Jones. Born just that little bit too late to have been part of the golden age of the crooners, and then getting stuck from the early ’70s onwards in a swamp of middle-of-the-road, cheesy Vegas-style pap, including some quite astonishingly ill-conceived pop covers. But the man who made famous songs like Wives and lovers (only played now as a warning to young men about how not to discuss the opposite sex) and The love boat (no comment required – although Jones is probably still laughing all the way to the bank with that one) was, and still is, capable of so many better things. Like this statement of his admiration for Tony Bennett. It’s a hugely tasteful and sophisticated collection of grown-up songs by a grown-up singer for grown-up listeners. Of course, nobody does Bennett like Bennett and, wisely, Jones doesn’t attempt it. With equally sophisticated trio assistance from Mike Renzi (piano), Craig Nelson (bass) and Jimmy Blakemore (drums), what we get instead is all of Jones’ many decades of experience set out in an impressively-crafted tribute that will surprise and, given Jack’s corny reputation, may even shock you.”
Wikipedia: Jack Jones
8 January 2016: As tasteful now as it was then
Artist: Joni Mitchell
FoJL tipster: Ewan Svensson* in Falkenberg, Sweden
What Ewan says: “There are so many albums that have meant a lot to me that it’s very hard to choose one which is special – it could be virtually any Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, Coltrane, Davis or Pat Metheny record. But I often listen to music of the sort I don’t play myself and, right now, I’m very much enjoying Mitchell’s Turbulent Indigo again. I remember when it was released in 1994, and how I loved the great songs, fantastic sound and the very tasteful playing of Wayne Shorter. And I still do.”
Website: Joni Mitchell
* Ewan is the guitar-playing half of Swedish father-daugher combo, Two Generations; the other 50% is singer Hannah Svensson. Two Generations’ most recent album, For You (Dragon Records), was released in autumn last year, and has been make rather a lot of critical ‘noise’ – wholly of the positive kind – in Swedish jazz and popular circles ever since. See FoJL’s 16 October 2015 Update (here) for details.
14 September 2015: Filled with life
Artist(s): Frode Thingnæs Quintet
FoJL tipster: Maren Victoria Thingnæs* in Oslo, Norway
What Maren Victoria says: “This album was the first-ever direct-to-disc recording in Norway, made by my father, Frode Thingnæs, and his quintet. It was first released as an LP in 1980, and won a National Grammy for ‘best jazz release’ in the same year. Direct To Dish(c) is a hidden treasure for many, and that’s sad, because it’s music that makes your feet tap, your heart sing and your face smile. This is a pure reflection of my father and his personality. The fact that it’s a direct-to-disc recording makes it even more interesting; they had only one take, so it had to be perfect. The album is filled with life – it’s powerful, dynamic and tight. Track 6, Around once more, makes my heart beat faster every time I hear it, and I play the song over and over again. As I say, though, the entire record is filled with tempo, rhythm and beats, and it contains an especially beautiful ballad – actually written for my mother – called Along came you (the bonus track of this song is even more beautiful than the original).
“The recording was made by the one-and-only sound engineer, Jan Erik Kongshaug, who later transferred it to CD format at his Rainbow Studio in Oslo. When the quintet finished recording the album, they celebrated with fireworks inside the studio. Ha ha! Frode passed away in 2012, but his music is still going strong.”
Wikipedia: Frode Thingnæs
* Maren Victoria is a filmmaker whose most recent release is a documentary about the impact of gun violence in the US, which you can watch here on YouTube. She is currently putting the finishing touches to a new feature about the work of her father, to be broadcast on Norway’s national TV network in November. There’s a teaser film here, and a newspaper interview (in Norwegian) with Maren Victoria.
26 June 2015: Stripped down and jazzy
Artist(s): Robert Glasper Trio
FoJL tipster: Magnus Palmquist* in Stockholm, Sweden
What Magnus says: “I always keep a sharp eye out for Robert Glasper as he is one true visionary and an eclectic musician who doesn’t hesitate to take new turns in his dynamic musical journey. He’s proved, with his excellent excursions with the Robert Glasper Experiment, that it is possible to interconnect the worlds of jazz, hip-hop and R&B without being pretentious or lacking genuine musical intentions. Glasper is a chameleon in his own musical universe of soulful sounds that need no categorisation. I’ve presented him many times at clubs and festivals and every time the live performance is a unique and new experience. You never know what to expect but what you do know is that it’s going to be unforgettable and inspirational. This is exactly what has happened with his new record Covered, where Glasper has gone ‘back’ to a more stripped-down and jazzier sound, covering some of his favourite tracks. Still you can clearly sense the loose and warm signature way that Glasper always approaches music. It’s a beautiful, low-key record from a sensitive tastemaker. I love it and I’m looking forward to hearing it live this summer when Glasper comes with the trio to both Fasching and Ystad Sweden Jazz Festival!”
Website: Robert Glasper
* Always ask the guy who books the acts if you want to know what’s worth listening to. So who better to get a record tip from than Magnus, the artistic director of Stockholm’s premier jazz vanue, Fasching, and of Stockholm Jazz Festival? Jan has done countless gigs at Fasching, and so have most other international artists who matter – thanks to Magnus’ vision and innate good taste.
11 June 2015: Lucky gets a new workout
Artist(s): Chris Byars Octet
FoJL tipster: Noal Cohen* in Montclair, New Jersey, United States
What Noal says: “Here’s some old wine in new bottles performed by a superb octet of New York City musicians led by saxophonist Chris Byars. This 2010 recording features 10 of the great Lucky Thompson’s compositions as well as an original each from Byars and baritone saxophonist Mark Lopeman. Byars also reprises Thompson’s famous solo on the standard Just one more chance recorded in 1947 for RCA Victor. Thompson was not only an original soloist on both tenor and soprano saxophones, but also a composer of great talent, and it’s a pleasure to hear this sampling of his pieces given a workout by musicians of today. The band is hard swinging and tight, and the solos clearly inspired by the material. The players are: Scott Wendholt (trumpet), John Mosca (trombone), Zaid Nasser (alto sax), Chris Byars (soprano & tenor sax), Mark Lopeman (baritone sax), Sacha Perry (piano), Ari Roland (bass) and Stefan Schatz (drums). Chris Byars has also recorded CD tributes to Gigi Gryce, Teddy Charles, Freddie Redd and Duke Jordan – all of which are on the Danish SteepleChase label. Lucky Strikes Again is highly recommended!”
Website: Chris Byars
* Noal is a jazz researcher and discographer whose interests include artists he considers worthy of greater recognition. If you look at his outstanding Jazz History Website, you’ll find detailed discographies of Teddy Charles, Herb Geller, Johnny Hartman, Elmo Hope, Tiny Kahn, Joe Locke, Bob Mover, Carl Perkins, Benny Powell, Frank Strozier and Lucky Thompson. Noal also writes articles and liner notes, and he is the co-author with Michael Fitzgerald of Rat Race Blues: The Musical Life of Gigi Gryce.
21 May 2015: Where jazz and blues meet
Artist: Jay McShann
FoJL tipster: Anton Garcia-Fernandez* in Martin, Tennessee, United States
What Anton says: “Oklahoma-born pianist and singer Jay McShann spent his whole career at the intersection where jazz and blues meet. In the 1940s he led one of the most swinging bands in Kansas City, at that time one of the most swinging towns in America. None other than Charlie Parker got his start playing with McShann, and even though McShann was never as popular or as much of a cult figure as Bird, The Last Of The Blue Devils, recorded in 1977 for Atlantic, when he was making a comeback of sorts, demonstrates what a fantastic musician he was. On this session, McShann is accompanied by Paul Quinichette and Buddy Tate on tenor sax (both of them always warm and bluesy), Joe Newman on trumpet, Milt Hinton on bass, and a young John Scofield on guitar, and he has ample room to showcase his elegant playing style and his understated, bluesy singing. The repertoire, including his own classics Confessin’ the blues and Hootie blues (the latter co-written with Parker), underscores the eclecticism of McShann’s music, which should be of great interest to those of you who like their jazz with a tinge of the blues.”
Wikipedia: Jay McShann
* When he’s not teaching Spanish at the University of Tennessee at Martin, Anton can usually be found researching and writing The Vintage Bandstand, a very erudite and highly respected blog that explores both the well-known and the now-forgotten figures of jazz and popular music. The blog also carries a fine interview with Jan, published in August 2014, which you can read here.
12 May 2015: Everything that’s jazz
Artists: Max Ionata & Dado Moroni
FoJL tipster: Christian Brorsen* in Copenhagen, Denmark
What Christian says: “I’m fortunate to attend more than 120 concerts a year. I also get the chance to hear a lot of CDs that people send to me as promotion. Most of them I hear only parts of, and many of them never again. But, in February, two of Europe’s very best musicians gave a fantastic concert at Montmartre – Max Ionata and Dado Moroni playing Two For Stevie with only Stevie Wonder tunes. As Dado Moroni puts it: ‘Stevie Wonder’s music has everything to make it jazz’. The duo also released what I think must be one of the best jazz CDs in many years. It’s a masterpiece by Dado Moroni, who is one of the most swinging piano players today, and the wonderful tenor player Max Ionata. On a few of the tracks you also hear Dado Moroni playing bass, in the style of the late, great NHØP. Get the CD spinning and these two great musicians will take you on a journey where you never feel like pressing the stop button – which is a rare feeling with new CDs. It’s a really pleasant surprise to hear Max Ionata with his beautiful and powerful sound; to me, he is one of the best tenor players around. In a period where jazz musicians seem to alienate themselves more and more from the audience by doing over-complicated, non-swinging music, it’s liberating to hear Two For Stevie with Max Ionata and Dado Moroni.”
* You’re probably thinking to yourself: how come Christian goes to over 120 concerts a year? It’s because he’s the music director of Jazzhus Montmartre in Copenhagen – one of Europe’s leading jazz venues, where Jan and many of the other musicians who’ve contributed to this page have played numerous times in their careers. You can be certain that what Christian doesn’t know about the jazz scene simply isn’t worth knowing.
5 May 2015: Unique and personal voices
Artist(s): Arild Andersen Trio
FoJL tipster: Hans Backenroth* in Stockholm, Sweden
What Hans says: “On a tour in Norway back in 2008, I heard some incredible music in the reception of my hotel (in Gjøvik). My first thought was that the receptionist had really good taste in music, but it turned out that a trio was playing live in the hotel’s dining room. A bass solo began with marvellous sound and lines and, when I opened the door to the room, there was Arild Andersen with his trio…
“Arild has been one of the most important musicians in Europe since the 1960s – as a bassist, composer, sideman and bandleader. A favourite bass player of mine, he has a strong personal voice and plays in many different styles. Stan Getz, Sonny Rolliins, Paul Motian, Jan Garbarek and Peter Erskine are just a few of the greats that Arild has collaborated with. His current trio has existed for about 10 years now – something that you can hear on this recording. The other members of the trio are Paolo Vinaccia on drums/percussion and saxophonist Tommy Smith. They also have unique and personal voices.
“It’s certainly not the easiest thing to play trio without a chord instrument and to hold the listener’s attention for 60 minutes, but that’s definitely the case here. They capture a real ‘live feeling’ in the studio, relaxed and filled with energy: tempo/out of tempo, free playing/song structures, jazz/beat ‘funk’, ballads… Arild’s trio explores and stretches out all the possibilities that a setting like this offers. The tracks are original compositions (mostly by Arild), except for the standard Alfie – which fits like a glove. It’s unnecessary to go in to any more detail: these musicians are something else and the music speaks for itself. The sound is also excellent, thanks to Jan Erik Kongshaug at RainbowStudio in Oslo. Buy this CD and be sure to catch them live!”
Website: Arild Andersen
* If you’ve read the March 2015 edition of JLN (page 5), you’ll know that Hans is the musician Jan has recorded with more times than anyone else in his career. You’ll probably also be aware that Hans – one of Scandinavia’s finest bassists who’s played with just about everyone who matters in jazz on both sides of the Atlantic – has a very busy touring and recording schedule himself. He’s also finding the time to deliver a two-part lecture, The Evolution of Jazz Bass, on 30 and 31 July at this year’s Ystad Sweden Jazz Festival. The details are in YSJF’s 2015 programme.
28 April 2015: Endlessly creative
Artist(s): Al Haig Trio
FoJL tipster: Damian Gardner* in Hereford, England
What Damian says: “If you like Jan’s All By Myself (and I’m sure you do), then you will surely appreciate all the late solo, duet and trio work by Al Haig. Invitation is a particularly fine session: Haig’s playing is endlessly creative, subtle and complex, his impeccable technique apparent throughout. Kenny Clarke on drums and bassist Bibi Rovère provide exactly what is required – effortless rhythmic support, perfectly attuned to Haig’s purpose. Tony Williams’ production is excellent with a crisp clear sound and no hint of the over-amplified base sound popular at the time of recording. I bought my vinyl copy in a sale as an impoverished student 30 years ago, have listened to it several times a year since, and still find myself surprised and delighted…”
* Damian is one of FoJL’s growing band of members in the UK – a place where he and everyone else wishes Jan would perform more often. And if you’re wondering why Damian’s surname seems vaguely familiar, it’s because his uncle is Mark Gardner, the esteemed correspondent of UK jazz bible, Jazz Journal.
20 April 2015: Mind-blowing energy
Artist: McCoy Tyner
FoJL tipster: Mattias Svensson* in Malmö, Sweden
What Mattias says: “This is an amazing record with great energy and power. It’s been following me around for almost 30 years. The track Rebirth was the first acoustic jazz tune that completely blew my mind. It was back in 1986 when I was 19 years old, attending my first jazz summer camp in southern Sweden. We had this record-listening session, and one of the teachers put on Rebirth… and I was rooted to the spot; I simply couldn’t believe that energy! By the way, this happened just a few weeks before I met Jan for the very first time.”
* Who else could it be but the irrepressible Jive Master? Indelibly asociated as he is with the Jan Lundgren Trio, bassist Mattias frequently performs and records with many other artists in Europe and beyond. Here he is at a Danish jazz festival in 2011, on stage in a line-up with fellow Swedes, Viktoria Tolstoy and Jacob Karlzon (among others), performing the Herbie Hancock/Stevie Wonder composition, Chan’s song: YouTube.
17 April 2015: A rare and understated combination
Artists: Bill Evans & Jim Hall
FoJL tipster: Jacob Fischer* in Copenhagen, Denmark
What Jacob says: “I know I’ve broken FoJL’s house rules by recommending two albums rather than one, but these records are very much a pair. Guitar-piano duos are rare because they’re difficult to pull off well: there are very few recordings out there with this combination, and even fewer really good ones. But these two albums provide the benchmark against which all other attempts have to be compared. They feature two masters of jazz at the height of their creative and musical capabilities, leaving space for each other while simultaneously swinging hard in a very understated way. There are also some radical tempo choices on these records: for example, My funny valentine is up-tempo, and I hear a rhapsody is played extremely slow. Maybe Jan and I should give it a go at some point – could be interesting!”
* One of Scandinavia’s leading jazz guitarists, Jacob regularly gigs with Jan – although, as he intimates above, they’ve never actually got around to performing as a duo. Their most recent collaboration was Jan Lundgren Group’s 100 Years With Billie Holiday celebration in Stockholm on 10 April. And they’ve made a number of albums together, both as members of the Artistry Jazz Group (see our Discography page) and in other line-ups. Jacob has also released five of his own albums as leader, and he’s in continuously high demand as a sideman (the details are on jacobfischer.dk).
16 April 2015: As jazzy as it gets
Artist: John Coltrane
FoJL tipster: Zoltan Csörsz* in Malmö, Sweden
What Zoltan says: “This was the first jazz recording that blew me away. Coltrane’s feeling for the music, and everybody’s playing, is so good that you can’t help but be affected by it. And the way Philly Joe Jones plays the drums here is unbelievable – it was like love at first sight for me. The cover artwork is amazing too. It doesn’t get more jazzy than this.”
Wikipedia: Blue Train
* How many other Zoltans do you know? Think of Sweden’s grooviest drummer and the 33.3% of Jan Lundgren Trio that speaks fluent Hungarian… Yep, it’s that Zoltan.
13 April 2015: Outstanding sound and rhythm
Artist: Miroslav Vitous
FoJL tipster: Arild Andersen* in Oslo, Norway
What Arild says: “Infinite Search was the first album made by Czech bassist Miroslav Vitous as leader. It showed a new way for a rhythm section to work, with much more interplay between the soloists than the traditional hierarchy usually adopted in American jazz up until that point. Vitous’ sound and rhythm on the recording are outstanding, while the ‘conversation’ between him and drummer Jack DeJohnette is simply fantastic. Infinite Search is very firmly among my favourite albums.”
Wikipedia: Miroslav Vitous
* No, your eyes are not deceiving you: it’s the one and only Arild Andersen – easily the greatest bass player to have come out of Norway and, indeed, one of the very best anywhere in the world. If you want to remind yourself why, take a look at this jaw-dropping concert by the Arild Andersen Sextet at the Oslo Jazz Festival in August last year. Arild has performed with Jan on numerous occasions, as well as joining him in the studio for the albums Jul På Svenska and Jul På Norska. Arild’s most recent release – with Tommy Smith on tenor sax and Paolo Vinaccia on drums – is the critically acclaimed Mira.
1 April 2015: Unique and swinging
Artist(s): Ray Bryant Trio
FoJL tipster: Kristian Leth* in Maarlset, Denmark
What Kristian says: “This is a unique album: very well recorded and very, very well performed by everybody in the trio. If you like Jan Johansson, Ahmad Jamal, Oscar Peterson or Jan Lundgren, then you’ll love this record. Ray Bryant is now rather overlooked, known mostly for his work with the Jo Jones Trio. Another very overlooked musician on this recording is Charles ‘Specs’ Wright, who is a wonderfully swinging drummer and amazing with brushes. Wright can also be heard on Red Garland’s live album, Red Garland At The Prelude (1971), which is another great trio record.”
Wikipedia: Ray Bryant
* Drummer Kristian is the great Dane (sorry, but we can’t resist that little joke) who regularly records and performs with Jan. Among the albums they’ve made together are Swedish Ballads… & More (with Scott Hamilton), Each Little Moment (Hannah Svensson) and, most recently, Quietly There (Harry Allen). Kristian is also a well-established jazz tour promotor (www.jazzconcerts.dk).
26 March 2015: About time you heard it
Artists: Ella Fitzgerald & the Duke Ellington Orchestra
FoJL tipster: Joakim Bergdal* in Stockholm, Sweden
What Joakim says: “Few singers have been bestowed with so many musical gifts as Ella Fitzgerald – ‘The First lady of Jazz’. With her effortless phrasing, flawless pitch, impressive vocal ability and her peerless scat singing, she is remembered as one of the greatest talents ever. Years ago I was given a very poor audio tape with an incomplete live performance featuring Ella and a big band. After listening to it numerous times I thought I heard Ella’s voice saying something that sounded like ‘Tack så mycket’. Was it recorded in Sweden? Since this was in the days before the internet, finding the actual recording turned out to be quite a task. Then, some years later, I was on a tour to New York. In searching for recordings as well as printed music, Colony Records on Broadway was the place to go when visiting the city (the shop sadly went out of business in 2012, as well as Patelson’s and the other stores that sell sheet music…). And behold: there was the record on CD, re-mastered! To this day, The Stockholm Concert, 1966 is probably my favourite album. I know all of it by heart, but I will never grow tired of it. Ella’s in great voice! She swings, the ballads are exquisite and the final track, Cotton tail, is a masterpiece in scat singing at an insane tempo, with Ella duelling against tenorist Paul Gonsalves. As legendary producer Norman Granz writes in the liner notes: ‘This is quite simply some of the best singing Ella has ever recorded’. So if you haven’t heard it yet, it’s about time you did!”
Wikipedia: The Stockholm Concert, 1966
* Joakim is Jan’s agent for the Nordic region. He is also an accomplished singer and long-standing member of the Gustaf Sjökvist Chamber Choir, hence his reference to touring. JLN interviewed Joakim in its March 2014 edition.
21 February 2015: Space plus trust equals perfection
Artist(s): Brad Mehldau Trio
FoJL tipster: Fanny Gunnarsson* in Malmö, Sweden
What Fanny says: “I’ve listened to all the Brad Mehldau Trio’s albums, and it’s hard to choose just one. But the recording I started off with and keep returning to is Songs. It’s such a beautiful album that has it all: lyrical melodies, lots of space and trust between the musicians, and a perfect ‘feel’ to it from start to finish. I get really inspired by Mehldau’s way of combining tunes from pop, rock and classical music into a jazz trio sound. Works by Radiohead, Nick Drake and The Beatles are just some of the songs he covers, and they’re done with such finesse that you wouldn’t think they sounded any different the first time around.”
Website: Brad Mehldau
* Fanny is a young Swedish pianist, singer and composer whose debut CD, Same Eyes As You (Volenza), was produced by Jan and released in spring last year. There’s a feature about the recording of Fanny’s album in the March 2014 edition of JLN.
26 January 2015: Simply amazing music
Artists: Keith Jarrett & Charlie Haden
FoJL tipster: Søren Bebe* in Copenhagen, Denmark
What Søren says: “This has been on my CD player for a year now, although I’ve been listening to Keith Jarrett for the last two decades. The depth of his playing and the melodies, and his beautiful improvisations that always sound new and fresh, resonate in me on a level I can’t put into words. I’ve heard endless hours of Keith Jarrett’s music in my life, and the almost total absence of ‘licks’ in his playing – even in fast tempos – is just amazing. And then this album adds the late Charlie Haden, my favourite bass player in the world. Jasmine is such a beautiful, compelling, meditative and addictive record. The songs were recorded in Keith’s own studio in 2007 and weren’t originally meant for release. So Jasmine is the outcome of two old friends who hadn’t played together in 30 years. It’s simply amazing music. For a while it was also my two-year old daughter’s favourite… But then the beautifully simple ECM cover stopped being able to compete when she found another CD with Mickey Mouse on the front.”
* Those of you who follow Scandinavian jazz will already know that Søren is the young but formidable pianist and composer. His latest trio album, Eva, was recommended on this page in December 2014 (see below).
23 January 2015: Classical Romanian swinger
Artist: Eugen Cicero
FoJL tipster: Gerard Bielderman* in Zwolle, Netherlands
What Gerard says: “I heard Rokoko-Jazz by the Romanian pianist Eugen Cicero for the first time in the mid-sixties, and immediately liked it. The way he introduces a classical theme and develops it into a swinging jazz piece is wonderful. He has excellent assistance on the album from Peter Witte (bass) and Charly Antolini (drums). In the following years, Cicero continued with the albums Cicero’s Chopin, Swinging Tschaikowsky, Romantic Swing (Franz Liszt) and Balkan Rhapsody. I was very glad that these records were reissued in a 3-CD box in 2006. Although deep in my heart I prefer traditional jazz, these recordings are some of my favourites.”
Wikipedia: Eugen Cicero
* Gerard is the FoJL member who put together the most recent Jan Lundgren disco (see our Discography page for details).
15 January 2015: Inspirational Nordic duo
Artists: Karin Krog & Bengt Hallberg
FoJL tipster: Hannah Svensson* in Malmö, Sweden
What Hannah says: “Two legendary artists: the late, great Swedish pianist Bengt Hallberg, and the wonderful Norwegian jazz singer Karin Krog – who, I’m happy to say, is still recording and performing. What more do you need to know?! I only discovered this album recently, although it was recorded well before I was born. It’s a truly great and inspiring duo, and I love it. A Song For You is now quite hard to get hold of, but there are second-hand vinyl copies for sale at sites like eBay and Amazon, while some of the tracks are available from iTunes on a Karin Krog compilation album called One On One. Well worth hunting down!”
* If you didn’t know already, Hannah is a super-talented Swedish singer whose most recent album, Each Little Moment (2014), was produced by Jan, as well as featuring him on piano.
22 December 2014: A master pianist, sadly underrated
Artist(s): James Williams, plus guests
FoJL tipster: Hans Backenroth* in Stockholm, Sweden
What Hans says: “James Williams is a pianist that I first heard in my teens quite soon after discovering jazz; a friend of mine had a cassette on which Williams played with Art Blakey, as well as a recording of his own trio with Ray Brown and Elvin Jones. Although I loved his playing, he kind of ‘unfairly’ disappeared from my radar screen when I soon after got overloaded with music and inspiration from artists like Oscar Peterson, Wynton Kelly, Bill Evans, Thad Jones, Coltrane, etc. In 1994, I got to hear James live in New York City, playing duo with bassist Bob Cranshaw, which opened my ears to his work once again. I met James after the concert and, when asking him for newer recordings to look out for, he said that, although he’d played with everybody, he hadn’t recorded much for quite some time. James was turning 50 in 2001, and decided to give himself a birthday present: a duo-recording project. It turned out to be four CDs – 43 tracks with 24 different musicians, recorded between 2000 and 2001. His duo-partners are never less than the finest players: Ron Carter, Joe Lovano, Etta Jones, Christian McBride, John Patitucci, Ray Drummond, John Clayton, Peter Washington, Freddy Cole, Russel Malone… But even with that impressive line-up, James had to release the recording himself. He died unexpectedly in 2004 and the albums went out of print soon afterwards. Luckily, I finally found this 4-CD set which, in my opinion, gives a great insight into a master pianist who is sadly underrated. Let’s hope that this CD-set will become available again so that more listeners can enjoy his music.”
Wikipedia: James Williams
* Yes, it’s that Hans Backenroth… one of Scandinavia’s finest double bass players and a regular collaborator with Jan.
6 December 2014: Christmas the soulful, bluesy way
Artist(s): Ramsey Lewis Trio
FoJL tipster: Anton Garcia-Fernandez in Martin, Tennessee, United States
What Anton says: “With the festive season quickly drawing near, my CD player and turntable are always spinning Christmas music of all kinds, but mostly jazz and classic pop. This is a record to which I often return come every December, ever since a bassist friend of mine turned me on to it. ‘Have you heard Ramsey Lewis’ Christmas album?’ he asked me. ‘He’s one of the most soulful jazz pianists of all time.’ And he definitely is, as you will hear on all this CD’s tracks (Here comes Santa Claus is a great example). But he can also be bluesy, as on Merry Christmas, baby and Christmas blues, and sweetly melancholy, as on Santa Claus is comin’ to town and What are you doing New Year’s Eve. Accompanied by Eldee Young on bass and Redd Holt on drums, Lewis reinvents a handful of Christmas classics, both traditional and modern, and throws in one of his own compositions (Christmas blues). The B-side of the album adds a string ensemble, which ably supports the trio and never gets in the way. If you’re a Jan Lundgren fan, you should really give this fantastic record a try.”
4 December 2014: A Scandinavian experience
Artist(s): Søren Bebe Trio
FoJL tipster: Guy Jones in Stockholm, Sweden
What Guy says: “Is Danish pianist Søren Bebe what Jan Lundgren might have sounded like if he hadn’t discovered the great American songbook? Clearly a fatuous question but, notwithstanding the fact that Eva was recorded in New York and features the towering US bassist Marc Johnson (part of Bill Evans’ final trio), this album gives the listener even more of a Scandinavian experience than turning on Jan’s Swedish Standards or devouring a Danish open sandwich while watching back-to-back episodes of Broen/Bron. And that’s meant as a compliment, because Eva is an enormously appealing experience. Søren’s compositional and playing skills are outstanding and, like all good – and still quite young – musicians, his work just gets better and better with each new album.”
3 December 2014: Like Jan Lundgren?
FoJL tipster: Tomoko Ikawa in Tokyo, Japan
What Tomoko says: “Trispace is a young Tokyo-based jazz trio. They recorded this latest album at Nilento Studios near Gothenburg, which probably explains why it sounds so much like Swedish jazz – and maybe also a bit like Jan Lundgren! The songs were composed by the trio’s pianist, Yuichi Hayashi, and yet they have a completely different sound to Japanese/Asian compositions. I was moved by listening to this CD.”