2 July 2016: The finest ever?
FoJL caught up with Jan last night, and got a quick debrief on his Mare Notsrum II concert on Wednesday evening (29 June) at Festival Estival in Trélazé, France . “I had a fantastic show with Paolo and Richard” he tells us. “We performed to about 2,000 people at the Arena Loire, which is a really nice indoor venue. You know, I think it was one of our finest efforts on stage, ever. It’s always such a treat for me to play with these guys. With 11 years together and two albums under our belt, there’s definitely a special chemistry between the three of us that’s not easily achieved.”
Want to see that chemistry in action? Take a look at the footage below, which was shot at one of the trio’s earliest performances at JazzBaltica in 2007, around the time the first Mare Nostrum album came out. The chemistry already seems to be very evident, particularly by the time Jan, Paolo and Richard reach the closing number, Love land. “It’s a song I wrote especially for the three of us, and we nearly always play it live – just as we did last Wednesday in France.” It’s one of FoJL’s favourites, too, although the group has never actually recorded the piece. You can find a relaxed version of the tune on Jan’s CD collaboration, Janson Lundgren Wakenius (2011, Ladybird), with Swedish accordionist Bengan Janson and the great Ulf Wakenius on guitar. But nothing quite beats Jan hammering out a full-length, 10-minute Love land in person on stage with Richard and Paolo (at 56:15 in the video).
10 June 2016: Tokyo calling
With JLT now well in to its Japanese tour, Jan has dropped us a line from Tokyo. “Everything’s going great here in Japan. We’ve done three concerts so far – Yokohama, Tokyo and Osaka – all with wonderful, super-enthusiastic audiences. This is the eighth time the Trio has toured Japan, so we’re getting a lot of love from both old and new fans alike. But it probably helps that Yosuke Sato is along for the ride too!”
“Tonight I’m doing the Swedish embassy performance in Tokyo [see our 4 June Update below]. There are 100 specially invited Japanese people coming, and I’ll be promoting Ystad Sweden Jazz Festival. The fabulous pianist Hiromi has so far been the only Japanese artist to have appeared at YSJF, which is a real pity, because there are so many interesting and talented musicians here. Fingers crossed, then, that we’ll make a lot more local connections this evening. After that, we’re off to Sapporo for an appearance on Sunday at the city’s jazz festival. Should be a lot of fun.”
The photos here suggest that things have already been a lot of fun for JLT in Japan. We took the liberty of ‘borrowing’ them from Facebook, and our thanks go to Satoshi Hirano, Kazuyoshi Kajimoto and Tomoji Kato.
4 June 2016: Sayonara, Jan
Jan Lundgren Trio is leaving today for a mini-tour of Japan. “It’s been several years since we were last there as a trio” Jan tells us. “We used to perform in Japan on a very regular basis, so it’s really great to be going back for these gigs.” The boys have got four concerts: Yokohama on 7 July; Tokyo the following night; Osaka on 9 July; and, after a little break, Sapporo on 12 July (see the Concerts page of janlundgren.com for links to each venue).
Appearing with JLT at all the performances will be the Japanese saxophonist Yosuke Sato. “That makes this tour even more special” says an enthusiastic Jan. “I first heard Yosuke when he was playing with Gregory Porter’s band – which he recently left – and I was hugely impressed by his approach and style. So I asked him if he’d like to join us on the tour and, to my delight, Yosuke said yes.”
“I absolutely adore Japan; the country is amazing. And the mentality of the Japanese people really is something else – they’ve always been so warm and welcoming at the shows I’ve done. Mattias, Zoltan and I are thrilled to be going again.”
While he’s in Tokyo, Jan is playing a side event at the Swedish embassy. “My job that day is basically to wave the flag for Sweden and, in particular, Ystad Sweden Jazz Festival. It’s part of a drive to encourage more Japanese people to visit Sweden, and to foster stronger links between YSJF and Japanese artists. We’d like more performers from Japan to appear at the festival, because it’s an important part of YSJF maintaining its international status.”
So the gig is a naked piece of self-promotion? “Of course! A major part of my role as YSJF’s artistic director means putting the festival about outside Sweden.”
25 May 2016: Lundgren’s lost Oslo sessions?
FoJL had a long catch-up with Jan the other day, during which we found out that he spent most of Friday 13 May at the radio studios of Norway’s public service broadcaster, NRK. Jan recorded segments for two radio programmes: Jazzklubben (no prizes for guessing what that means), where he was interviewed about Jan Johansson, The Ystad Concert and Sweden’s musical heritage in general; and Spillerom (‘Playroom’), when he not only talked about The Ystad Concert, but also played a couple of songs from the album live in the studio. The TV arm of NRK filmed the second of these appearances with the intention of running a piece on Dagsrevyen – apparently, the most-watched TV programme in Norway. It may be that all three of these segments have already been broadcast; Jan isn’t sure what day (or days) the recordings were scheduled to air, and we haven’t been able to see anything yet on NRK’s website. But if you click on the programme names above during the next few days, you might get lucky and find them. Or, if you’re a regular NRK listener and viewer and you know what’s happened, please do drop us a line. Mind you, there’s something pleasingly Bill Evans about Jan having some ‘lost’ Scandinavian sessions at this stage in his career…
11 May 2016: No end in sight
Although he’s reached the grand old age of 50, Jan’s pace shows no sign of slowing. Nor, in fact, do his continuing birthday celebrations. “I got back yesterday from another successful gig with Nils Landgren and his Bernstein crew” he tells us today. “It was in Friedrichshafen, the German city that’ll be forever associated with the Zeppelin airships… And I’m very much looking forward to the next concert with this combo, which will be in Stockholm’s Konserthus on 20 May. Viktoria Tolstoy was our lovely vocalist in Friedrichshafen but, this time, Janis Siegel will be doing the singing – just as she does on the actual album, Some Other Time.”
“Tonight I’m playing solo at Katalin in Uppsala, which is always a great place. And, this Sunday [15 May], my first Stockholm birthday concert takes place at Fasching – Jan Lundgren Trio plus 12 very exciting guests. I can’t wait! Seated tickets are now sold out, but there are still some standing places left. It’s the same with the second Stockhom birthday gig at Fasching on 1 June, where I’ll be performing Mare Nostrum II with Richard and Paolo. Promises to be an equally wonderful evening.”
10 May 2016: At last
Back in January, when FoJL went to the Stockholm release gig for Jan’s most recent album, The Ystad Concert: A Tribute To Jan Johansson, we noticed that the stage at Konserthuset was surrounded by remote-control video cameras. It’s always a good sign, since it means that, provided the performance goes well and there are no insurmountable technical problems, a film of the event should eventually surface – which is exactly what happened yesterday. So you can now watch the entire gig for nothing (and as many times as you like) on something called KonserthusetPlay here. The audio quality is excellent, the pictures are great and, just as you would expect, Jan, Mattias and the Bonfiglioli Weber String Quartet give an outstanding rendition of the album’s material.
7 May 2016: Exhausted but happy
Some feedback from Jan on Wednesday night’s Mare Nostrum II performance at Basel’s Stadtcasino as part of the Offbeat festival: “In my opinion, the concert was one of the finest we’ve had in over a decade of playing together. Richard and Paolo were unbelievable – and so was the audience. We did three encores before finally leaving the stage, after which we were happily exhausted.”
“And, as I’ve said before, Basel itself is such a great place. It’s a small but beautiful city with an enormously rich cultural life, filled with world-class music, theatre and so many other arts all year round. I’m convinced there’s no city of a comparable size that can match Basel on this score – it’s simply astonishing.”
3 May 2016: History repeats itself
Jan dropped us a line this morning, just before leaving home a second time in four days for tonight’s Mare Nostrum II gig with Paolo Fresu and Richard Galliano at the Offbeat jazz festival in Basel. Together with Mattias Svensson and a string quartet (sourced locally, rather than the Bonfiglioli Weber), he performed material from The Ystad Concert at Wroclaw in Poland on Friday, and then in the Estonian capital of Tallinn [pictured] on Saturday. “I knew from previous experience that Poland has a very, very active jazz scene with great musicians and outstanding audiences” Jan says. “But what I didn’t know was that a small country like Estonia could produce such a professional and well-organised festival as the Jazzkaar. It’s a really fantastic event with an amazing line-up of artists.”
“It was my first time in Estonia and I was really impressed by everything, from the people to the food. And performing my Jan Johansson celebration in Tallinn was a particuarly special experience for me. Johansson played there back in 1966, just two years before his untimely death, with Rune Gustafsson [guitar] and Georg Riedel [bass]. You can listen to that concert on the great Live In Tallinn album they released later the same year.” All of which, exactly half a century later, is like history repeating itself, isn’t it?
28 April 2016: Jan the Italophile
Jan got back from Italy yesterday, where he played two Mare Nostrum II gigs: in Cagliari on Monday night and, on Tuesday, at Teatro Verdi in Pisa. He reports: “Italy was outstanding! Playing there is always something else, with some of the best audiences in the world. Both concerts were at fantastic theatres equipped with wonderful Steinways. I simply love playing in Italy; it’s an amazing country – and it’s probably got the best food anywhere!” Tomorrow, Jan’s off to Poland for a Friday-night gig in Wroclaw with Mattias Svensson and a string quartet playing his new Ystad Concert Jan Johansson material, followed on Saturday by a repeat performance in Tallinn, Estonia. “I really am blessed” Jan adds, thankfully.
24 April 2016: Offbeat in Basel
Jan was in Basel last Thursday (21 April), playing with Nils Landgren, Viktoria Tolstoy and others on the first non-German date of Nisse’s current Bernstein tour, Some other time. “Basel is one of my absolute favourite cities” says a cheerful Jan. “As always, it was a super-nice concert, held as part of the fantastic Offbeat festival run by artistic director Urs Blindenbacher. In fact, I’ll be back at Offbeat again on 3 May to perform Mare Nostrum II with Paolo Fresu and Richard Galliano. Really looking forward to it!”
Tonight, Jan Landgren Trio plays near Gothenburg at Jazz i Lerum with LaGaylia Frazier, followed in quick succession by two more Mare Nostrum concerts in Italy, plus a couple of The Ystad Concert/Jan Johansson gigs in Poland and Estonia.
18 April 2016: Nostalgia in Lundgren Land
“Two great, sold-out concerts this weekend” Jan tells us this morning. “The first, on Saturday evening, was a very special event in Ronneby – the town where I was brought up – and was filled with nostalgia. My old mates in the St Thomas Band, which was the jazz group I led as a teenager back in the ’80s, joined me for a performance with Decibellerna, the local Ronneby choir.”
“I was so impressed by how well my dear St Thomas friends handled the concert. Magnus Nilsson has hardly touched the trombone for years, and yet played beautifully with a great sound and a Lawrence Brown style of vibrato. Lasse Brown still plays a wonderful guitar and has a fantastic sense for nice harmonies. Håkan Westlin is as steady as a rock on the bass in the way he always was, while Pelle Trazan Jonasson delivered some of the best drumming I’ve ever heard from him – although, given that Pelle is a professional drummer, I’m not surprised!
“Working with Decibellerna was amazing. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect because, in the old days, the choir was under the direction first of the superb Gunnar Tillborg (recently deceased, unfortunately) and later by the great Berit Ljungström. Sara Höglind is now in charge and, I have to say, she does a marvellous job at the front of what is a very fine-sounding choir. So Saturday in Ronneby was something else; really a night to remember.
“Then, yesterday evening, I had another wonderful solo piano experience doing my Musik och minnen project at the beautiful Gränsö Slott in Västervik. I so enjoy these concerts and, of course, I love the amazing enthusiasm shown by the audiences. Västervik was no exception – simply outstanding in every way!” And, as you can see, there’s a very nice review of Jan’s performance in today’s local paper, Västervicks Tidningen.
12 April 2016: Shades of Ystad
We posted two recent reviews of Mare Nostrum II on Facebook today – one in The Guardian, and another that appeared on the website of LondonJazz. Both of them are very complimentary, but we’ve largely given up looking for more. Why? Because life is too short. MNII has – happily – attracted tons of good reviews. And then, serendipitously, we received an email update from Jan, who’s in Switzerland to play a sold-out concert with Paolo Fresu and Richard Galliano tonight in the little town of Cully, just east of Lausanne on the shores of Lake Geneva. “Cully Jazz is a great festival” Jan reports. “It definitely belongs in the first rank of the world’s jazz festivals and has an outstanding roster of artists. It reminds me in many ways of Ystad Sweden Jazz Festival…” he concludes, adding a self-deprecating ‘smiley’ after his elliptical final sentence (well, Jan is YSJF’s artistic director, remember?).
8 April 2016: Going cheap
Looking for some cheap Jan Lundgren CDs? Naxos Direct, the online mail-order arm of the company that distributes probably the bulk of jazz records in Sweden, is currently selling CDs of Jan’s live collaboration with LaGaylia Frazier, Until It’s Time (2012, Prophone), and Jan Lundgren Trio Plays The Music Of Jule Styne (2002, Sittel) – which features a guest appearance from, among others, the late great Mark Murphy – for just SEK 29 and 19 respectively. Also worth mentioning is the huge number of albums on the site by other Swedish jazzers, past and present. They include both early and more recent material by artists ranging from Rigmor Gustafsson, Jacob Karlzon and Peter Asplund to Kjell Öhman, Lars Erstrand and Alice Babs. In fact, the list has something from pretty much everyone we can think of on the Swedish/Scandinavian jazz scene – and all at knock-down prices. Could be a bargain-basement way of filling in some of the gaps in your collection? Click here to go to Naxos’ website.
6 April 2016: On the telly again
Jan will be appearing this Friday (8 April) on SVT1’s early evening magazine programme, Go’kväll. Together with the Jive Master Mattias Svensson on bass and a string quartet (but not the Bonfiglioli Weber line-up this time), he’ll be talking about and playing some material from The Ystad Concert: A Tribute To Jan Johansson. The show runs from 1845 to 1930 CET and, if you don’t manage to catch it live, Swedish viewers will be able to watch the performance afterwards at their leisure by going to SVT’s SVT Play website. Jan’s latest appearance on Go’kväll comes just two months after he did a duo on the programme with Nils Landgren to mark the release of Nisse’s Some Other Time Bernstein album (see our 11 March Update below).
1 April 2016: The masters get back on the road
News from Jan: “It was absolutely great playing again last night with Richard [Galliano] and Paolo [Fresu] in Rouen – our first gig since Mare Nostrum II was released” he writes in an email this morning. “We had a full house with a super audience in the beautifully rebuilt church, La Chapelle Corneille, which is now a concert hall.” Yesterday’s gig was just one of many more Mare Nostrum outings scheduled for Switzerland, Italy, Sweden, France (again), Germany and Norway at periodic intervals throughout the remainder of 2016 and the first half of 2017 (see our Gigs page). The concerts are always hugely popular and tend to sell out very quickly. If you need to be reminded why, look no further than this CD tip (in German) from Radio Bremen: “melodies to die for”, “elegiac tone painting at the highest level” and “timelessly beautiful”, says a gushing Andreas Kisters. He also describes Jan, Paolo and Richard as “masters of storytelling” – and it’s hard to disagree.
29 March 2016: Landgren’s favourite Lenny
German broadcaster NDR has put a short film on its website with nice clips from Jan’s Some other time concert with Nils Landgren and the crew at MuK in Lübeck on 19 March. Around half the video comprises a rather serious Mr Redhorn talking about Leonard Bernstein and his legacy in Nisse’s very fluent German (there’s no end to the man’s talent). And what is Nils’ favourite Bernstein song? Somewhere from West Side Story. Find out why by clicking here.
23 March 2016: Come together – again
While we’re still on the subject of Jan Lundgren videos (see the Update below), here’s a great one we just found from a wonderful 2013 concert series that Jan played with Pernilla Andersson (vocals), Nils Landgren (trombone and vocals), Göran Söllscher (guitar) and the Kroger Quartet. Organised by Musik i Syd and called Come Together, the project marked 50 years since the Beatles gave their first performance in Sweden. This particular film was shot at Malmö’s Palladium (we think – but do drop us a line if we’re wrong) and, among other delights, features an unusual and clever solo version by Jan of McCartney’s When I’m sixty-four (at around 23:25). Watch the entire concert here, and do it using a Windows PC if you experience problems – Musik i Syd’s website doesn’t seem to like FoJL’s iPad or iPhone.
23 March 2016: Don’t stop the party
Long-time Jan Lundgren fan Cathy Björk kindly sent us a little video of photo stills that she took at Jan’s 50th birthday concert in Ystad last week. She also managed to snap this close-up of the great man’s hands fingering the keyboard of his Steinway, which now adorns the top of Jan’s personal Facebook page. We don’t know how she succeeded in getting so near to the piano, but top marks to Cathy for her ingenuity. The video’s soundtrack is Sure as you are born, the Johnny Mandel song that kicks off Harry Allen-Jan Lundgren Quartet’s Quietly There album (2014, Stunt Records).
22 March 2016: He’s a lucky guy
Most of you will know by now that today is Jan’s 50th birthday. How’s he celebrating it? “I’m off to Majorca for a short holiday” he tells FoJL. “The last week has been another one filled with great moments. It started in an unbeatable way at Ystads Teater on 15 March with a fantastic birthday concert filled with wonderful artists [pictured here by Eva Andersson Bessman], which was put together by Thomas Lantz and the Ystad Sweden Jazz Festival team – a truly great way to spend a Tuesday evening! Then I went to Germany for three gigs with Nils Landgren and the gang for the continuation of Nisse’s Some Other Time tour. We played concerts in Lübeck, Hamburg and Leipzig, all of them to big audiences and outstanding receptions.”
The press has been equally busy marking Jan’s passage into middle age. Sweden’s big national daily, Dagens Nyheter, ran an interview with him in yesterday’s edition (which you can read here); Sydsvenskan carried another interview on Sunday (here); and Jan’s local newspaper, Ystads Allehanda, published a two-page story on 19 March (YA subscribers should click here). Perhaps most impressive impressive of all, though, are the pictures of Jan’s birthday gig at Malmö’s Palladium on 12 February which appear in this week’s issue of Svensk Damtidning – a sort of royal/celebrity Swedish photo magazine that people who feel exhausted by the thought of reading three consecutive sentences can buy at supermarket check-outs.
There are two more birthday concerts to come, both in Stockholm. Jan Lundgren Trio appears with guests at the great Fasching club on 15 May and, a fortnight later on 1 June, Fasching again plays host to Jan for a performance of his Mare Nostrum II collaboration with Paolo Fresu and Richard Galliano.
What does Jan think about it all? “I’m a lucky guy indeed!” he replies humbly.