8 March 2016: Like Johansson – but not really
Jan Olsson has written a four-star review of Jan’s The Ystad Concert album at the Swedish website DIG Jazz. After confessing some initial scepticism about the wisdom of tackling something as definitive as Johansson’s Jazz På Svenska material, Mr Olsson rapidly backtracks to conclude that the record is little short of “delicious”. He sees elements of Hallberg as well as Johansson in Jan’s performance, while deeming the whole thing to “…sound like Johansson – but not really”. Mattias Svensson’s bass, the Bonfiglioli Weber String Quartet and arranger Martin Berggren are also praised.
8 March 2016: While we were away
Now that the global editorial staff of FoJL are back from their annual team-building exercise (ha ha) in a series of agreeable Swedish ski locations, a quick catch-up on what Jan’s been doing while we were away. Perhaps the biggest news is the release, on 26 February, of the long-awaited (and, for many, much longed-for) Mare Nostrum II, which has already attracted a number of glowing reviews. Here are just a couple of them: a two-page interview plus review (in German) in the February issue of Swiss journal Jazz ‘n’ More – JnM Feb 2016 (PDF); and an enthusiastic internet post (in English) at Musicophilesblog.
Jan’s Leonard Benstein/Some Other Time tour of Germany with Nils Landgren, and a host of other top-class artists and symphony orchestra ensembles, dramatically upped its tempo at the start of March too. The group will also be playing Basel in April, followed by Stockholm in May. And a whole new series of Mare Nostrum II gigs has been announced, which will take place between now and on into 2017, across France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Italy and Norway (see our Gigs page, and/or the Concerts section of janlundgren.com).
On 28 February, the Danish jazz violinist Svend Asmussen – known as ‘The Fiddling Viking’ – celebrated his 100th birthday. “He’s the last of the big ones, a truly legendary artist with an extremely wide artistic range” Jan tells us. “I was lucky enough to play with Svend about five years ago in what I understand was his last performance. Together with my bass-playing pal Hans Backenroth and the great drummer Aage Tanggaard, we did a concert on the outskirts of Copenhagen.”
“Svend was a bit tired at the soundcheck before the gig, so we didn’t really rehearse at all. But when it was time for the show to start, he strode up on stage and suddenly seemed full of strength. One of the songs we did Svend announced as: ‘A tune I first played in public way back in about 1930, although it didn’t become famous until much later, when it was featured in a 1952 Gene Kelly movie. Here’s Singin’ in the rain‘!
“Another line I remember is: ‘In the old days I was quite dark haired and I used to have a white tuxedo. Now my hair is white so I have a black one…’. Wonderful, dry sense of humour; I’m so glad I got the chance to meet and play with Svend.”
22 February 2016: Very nice Växjö
“Växjö went great last night” reports a cheerful Jan. “I played a solo set to a full house in a small room of around 80 to 100 people. Very nice atmosphere, and a wonderful, full-page review in today’s Smålandsposten.” If you’re a subscriber to this regional newspaper down in the southeastern part of Sweden, you can read the review online here.
20 February 2016: Back to No1
Jan’s latest release, The Ystad Concert: A Tribute To Jan Johansson, is back in the top spot of the new Swedish jazz charts. As you can see from our screenshot, the record’s popularity is also having a meretricious effect on sales of Johansson’s 1964 masterpiece, Jazz På Svenska, to which The Ystad Concert pays so much homage. While we’re on the subject of big numbers, it’s equally good to learn that JLT’s 2013 album, I Love Jan Lundgren Trio (Figaro), is about to pass a massive 5,000,000 streams on Spotify. “How many jazz trio records have reached that?” asks a clearly incredulous Jan. Well, to give this number some context, the recordings of Oscar Peterson Trio’s various incarnations attract around 467,000 listeners a month on Spotify, and what’s lumped together as ‘the Bill Evans Trio’ gets 303,000. Primarily as a result of I Love JLT, the collected works of Jan Lundgren Trio on Spotify are currently pulling in 207,000 monthly listeners. So, yes, these are very impressive figures indeed for a jazz trio of any kind, Swedish or otherwise.
11 February 2016: Lundgren and Landgren go shopping
Jan’s taking part in what he describes as “a small concert and interview” with Nils Landgren at Stockholm’s NK department store on Thursday 25 February – “just the two of us doing material from our recent albums” he tells us. (By the way, you might be surprised to learn that NK’s music section sells more CDs and records than nearly every other retail outlet in Sweden, including dedicated music shops.) Then, on Friday 26 February, Jan and Nils will be appearing together on SVT1’s early evening Go’kväll programme, playing a song or two off Nisse’s new Bernstein tribute, Some Other Time. And, the next day (Saturday 27 February), the two of them travel down to Germany for a duo gig at the Illipse Kulturforum in Illinge. “I’ve got no fixed ideas about what we’ll be performing” says an open-minded Jan.
8 February 2016: Jan scores another double
Although we put this story up on Facebook at the weekend, we thought for the sake of completeness (as auditors like to say) that it would be a good idea to reprise it at FoJL. What the photo here tell us is that Jan’s The Ystad Concert went straight to No1 in the Swedish jazz chart (for the week 1-7 February) on its release. And, as if that wasn’t impressive enough, Nils Landgren’s latest album, Some Other Time – on which Jan features as a sideman, went in at No2. All very pleasing, isn’t it?
2 February 2016: Keeping it natural and organic
Alexander Agrell of Sydsvenskan, one of Sweden’s largest circulation newspapers, wrote a very complimentary review of Jan’s new album, The Ystad Concert, in the paper’s Saturday edition (30 January). You can see Alexander’s comments online here. For those of you who don’t speak Swedish, the review talks about “Lundgren & Co putting their mark on the melodies”, which are allowed to “shine naturally and organically” – er, whatever that actually means. Mattias Svensson is described as “Lundgren’s Riedel” (praise indeed) while Martin Berggren’s arrangements for the Bonfiglioli Weber String Quartet get a special mention for “some dynamic and bold diversions”. Click on this link, The Ystad Concert, if you’d like to read a (slightly dodgy) English translation of the review.
1 February 2016: An intense weekend
“Back home after some intense days on the road” reports a slightly weary but nonetheless very contented Jan. “I’m enormously happy about the sold-out performance and massive response to the Jan Johansson tribute on Friday at Grünewaldsalen, Stockholms Konserthus. In fact, I’d say it was a high point in my musical life so far. It was such a pleasure working again with the Bonfiglioli Weber String Quartet and with Mattias Svensson, and I certainly hope to have it on my agenda for many years to come.”
On Saturday, Jan went down to Münster in Germany for the WDR Jazzfest, where he played with Nils Landgren as part of Nisse’s new Leonard Bernstein project, Some other time. “Another sold-out performance” Jan cheerfully tells us. “And then, yesterday, I did a solo piano concert in Olofström, southern Sweden. Having spent the first five years of my life in this little city, it always gives me a great feeling to perform there. There was a very nice crowd and a big response which warmed my heart.”
What seems to be a flyer produced by ACT about Jan’s new album (see yesterday’s Update) popped up on Facebook last night. The cover artwork finally makes an appearance, while the text explains a little more about the record’s provenance. We’ve also found a track listing and some other details at the Norwegian site of online retailer CDON, where you can reserve a copy of the CD – go here.
24 January 2016: Swedes get it first
News about Jan’s next album… (how many are there?). It’s a live recording of his tribute to Jan Johnasson at Ystad Jazz Festival 2015, and it’s going to be released by ACT in late April. But those of you who’ve got tickets to the project’s performance this Friday (29 January) at Stockholms Konserthus – billed as Lycklig resa: en hyllning till Jan Johansson – will be able to buy the CD at the venue. As will anyone, in fact, who lives near a decent record shop in Sweden, since ACT has decided that 29 January will also be the album’s release date for the Swedish market as a whole. The CD is called The Ystad Concert: A Tribute To Jan Johansson and, along with Mr Lundgren, features Mattias Svensson on bass, as well as the Bonfiglioli Weber String Quartet. And although Friday’s concert was previously showing up on Konserthus’ website as ‘sold out’, it now looks like there’s a handful of tickets still available – well, to be accurate, just three. So you’d better go here right now if you want one.
17 January 2016: Not very surprising
FoJL caught up with Jan yesterday, following the opening performances in Germany on Thursday and Friday of his tour with Nils Landgren (see our 8 December Update below). “Two sold-out concerts at the Schauspielhaus in Bochum!” he gleefully tells us. “It all went fantastically well, although that’s hardly surprising with such great musicians as Nils, Dieter Ilg [bass] and Wolfgang Haffner [drums]. The Bochumer Symphoniker put in a fine performance too under the direction of Steven Sloane. I’m really looking forward to our next stop in Berlin on 19 January, where we’ll be joined by Janis Siegel as an extra star soloist [pictured here with Jan], as well as the Berlin Philharmonic with Vince Mendoza directing.” The gig is sold out, but there are plenty of other dates in Germany when you can catch this new Nils Landgren project – a tribute to Leonard Bernstein – over the coming weeks. And you’ll soon be able to buy the album, which ACT is releasing on 29 January.
13 January 2016: It’s my party
As you can see from our Gigs page, there’s a host of Jan concerts coming up in the first quarter of 2016. They include a tour of Germany with Nils Landgren for the latter’s new Leonard Bernstein project; a JLT appearance in France; Mare Nostrum II gigs with Galliano and Fresu; and further outings for Jan’s Musik och minnen solo performances at various locations across southern Sweden. “I just did another one on Monday night at Magle Konserthus in Lund [pictured]” Jan reports. “The organiser had asked me to improvise over some Mozart and Beethoven, which I gladly did. It was very exciting – I really loved it! The audience was great too: a packed house full of wonderful people. This Musik i Syd solo series I’ve been doing since last autumn is turning out to be really rewarding.” Next on the list are Olofström (31 January) and Växjö (21 February).
And something particularly special has been arranged for 12 February at Palladium in Malmö. It’s billed as a 50th birthday party (“festkonsert” in Swedish) – although Jan’s half-century actually falls on 22 March – and it features the fabulous Bohuslän Big Band. “I’m not entirely sure what’s going to happen since I haven’t been involved in putting the performance together. But it’s possible that some other artists will make an appearance too…” Jan tells us cryptically. There are just 11 tickets left (go here) so, if you feel like wishing Mr Lundgren happy birthday in person next month, you’ll need to be quick off the mark.
7 January 2016: History repeating itself?
A new Jan Lundgren gig has popped up on ACT’s website scheduled for Illingen (very close to Saarbrücken) in Germany on 27 February. It’s a little unusual, in that it’s just Jan playing a duo set with Nils Landgren. “Landgren continues what he started many years ago with Esbjörn Svensson…” says the venue’s blurb (in German) on its website (go here), which is an oblique reference to the two albums Nils made over 15 years ago with the late Svensson (of EST fame, in case your memory’s a bit rusty): Swedish Folk Modern (1998, ACT) and Layers Of Light (2001, ACT). These are two of FoJL’s favourite records, so it’s nice to see Nils resurrecting the project with Jan. Knowing Landgren and Lundgren, however, it seems highly unlikely that they’ll simply perform a ‘copy’ of those earlier recordings. Maybe Nils will even do some singing this time around… The only way of really knowing, of course, is by going to the concert.
18 December 2015: Make Jan’s a double…
Subscribers of the UK-based Jazz Journal – easily one of Europe’s finest jazz periodicals – will already know that two Jan Lundgren recordings have made it into the magazine’s Critics’ Poll of the best releases in 2015 (you can read the PDF here: JJ 2015 poll). Jan’s compilation of Fresh Sound recordings, A Retrospective, is ranked in third place, while the Harry Allen-Jan Lundgren Quartet’s Quietly There (Stunt) album of Johnny Mandel songs comes in sixth. This piece of news has prompted some of the Friends to ask where they can buy these records – so here’s the answer. CDs of A Retrospective are available mail order direct from Fresh Sound’s website and from Amazon (which offers an MP3 download too). Amazon also stocks copies of Quietly There (here) in both CD and MP3 formats, while both albums are available as a download from iTunes and for streaming on Spotify. And don’t forget that any decent record shop – hard as they are to find these days – will order you copies of these or any other albums if you ask nicely. A good example in the Stockholm area is Plugged Records at Gamla Stan, which has currently got CDs of A Retrospective and Quietly There in stock.
14 December 2015: Jan gets provocative
It may have escaped your notice – and it did ours – that a posthumous Bengt Hallberg album was released in October by the Swedish label, Gazell Records. It’s called simply Solo, and it was recorded at a concert given by Bengt in the autumn of 2012 – just over six months before he died – at Västerlövsta Church in Heby, not far from Uppsala. The album is a fitting monument to Hallberg’s genius, and includes liner notes written (in Swedish) by none other than Jan Lundgren. FoJL has only listened to the record on Spotify (you can also buy a download from iTunes), so we haven’t actually seen the notes themselves. But Jan Olsson of Swedish website DIG Jazz has and, in his five-star review of Solo (go here), he describes Jan’s comments as “extremely readable” and – this is the intriguing part – “a little provocative”. What on earth can Jan Olsson mean?!
8 December 2015: Yet another one
You can hardly move at the moment without bumping into a new Jan Lundgren recording… Here’s another one, scheduled for release on 29 January. It’s trombonist and singer Nils Landgren’s tribute to Leonard Bernstein, featuring additional vocals from Janis Siegel, Jan at the piano, Dieter Ilg on bass and drummer Wolfgang Haffner, as well as members of the Bochumer Symphoniker (our 9 November Update below has a bit more background). As you can see if you visit ACT’s website, the album’s artwork has now been published, together with a tracklist and some accompanying publicity material (in German) – go here. An extensive series of concerts has already been arranged for Germany in 2016, and those that we know will include Jan in the line-up are listed on our Gigs page. Have a look, too, at the ‘Tour’ section of Nils’ website – here. If you’re happy to watch Mr Landgren perform his Bernstein tribute in the absence of Jan’s piano (and why wouldn’t you be?), nilslandgren.com is probably the best place for a comprehensive list of all the concerts.
7 December 2015: The waiting’s nearly over…
Jan’s record company, ACT, has just released some details about his long-awaited second collaboration in the studio with Paolo Fresu and Richard Galliano. The album – innovatively entitled Mare Nostrum II – isn’t officially released until 26 February, but at least you’ll know what the cover artwork looks like. The recording features three new compositions by Jan, plus his arrangement of Christallen den fina, a traditional folk song from the Swedish province of Dalarna (actually spelled ‘Kristallen’ by the natives). A full tracklist and some explanatory blurb appear on ACT’s website here. You can’t sample any of the album’s tracks yet, but we’re sure our friends at ACT will get around to that very soon. And, of course, we’ll let you know when they do.
6 December 2015: Swinging into Christmas
It’s been a busy week for Jan, but he managed to find time for a quick catch-up with FoJL yesterday. “Everything’s gone very nicely on my mini-tour with Scott Hamilton” he told us. “The Quartet teamed up with Karin Krog for two of this four-concert series to play release gigs for our new album of Billie Holiday songs, The Best Things In Life, which came out on Tuesday. We performed at Stenhammarsalen in Gothenburg on Wednesday night [pictured here, courtesy of Jan Backenroth], and then at the great Cosmopolitie club in Oslo on Thursday – a particularly fine experience. The album is a fabulous production and the CD sold extremely well at both performances.” (But don’t just take Jan’s word for it; there’s a very positive review of the record here on the Norwegian website Salt Peanuts.) Yesterday, the Quartet rounded off the second half of its cheerfully entitled Swinging Christmas Tour with an afternoon gig in the southern Swedish university city of Lund, followed by a quick dash south east for an evening set in the seaside town of Simrishamn.
This Wednesday (9 December), you can catch Jan with Turkish/Swedish crooner Hayati Kafe and reed-man Klas Lindquist paying their respects to the talents of Frank Sinatra and Putte Wickman at Teater Lederman in Stockholm. And then Jan is reunited in one of his ‘classic’ trio line-ups with the great Danes (ha ha) Jesper Lundgaard on bass and drummer Alex Riel for a 13 December show on the Danish island of Bornholm. “It’s a really interesting little outpost” Jan assures us. “And it’s got a fast and very regular ferry service from – of all places – Ystad!”
24 November 2015: I love streaming
We just had a quick, Twitter-based chat (or was it a tweet?) with Eric Palmcrantz, supremo of Figaro Music, which is the label that released JLT’s I Love Jan Lundgren Trio album. A cheerful Eric – who’s sporting the very same t-shirt here in our photo – tells us that the Mattias Svensson composition on the record, Can you please, has now been streamed on Spotify over 2,030,000 times, while the number of streams for the album as a whole currently stands at roughly 3,700,000. Eric reckons it could easily pass the 4,000,000 mark by February. Amazing! These are quite astonishing figures for a modern Swedish jazz recording.
23 November 2015: Name that tune – live!
One thing leads to another. FoJL was looking at a short video earlier today about this year’s Ystad Sweden Jazz Festival on the Music Channel of Musik i Syd’s website (you know, the promoter behind Jan’s current solo Musik och Minnen tour of southern Sweden), when we noticed – to our uncontained delight – that the site also features film of an entire Come Fly With Us Sinatra tribute gig (see our numerous Updates from late 2014 and early 2015). The footage was shot at Kristianstad’s Kulturkvarteret on 7 February, and includes every single song performed that night by Jan, Nils Landgren, Miriam Aïda, Göran Söllscher and the Kroger Quartet. What’s more, from the comfort of your internet-enabled TV, smartphone or tablet, you can play Jan’s exhilarating and much-loved concert party game of ‘Name that tune’. How? By moving the film forward to around 35:15 minutes, and trying to guess before you reach 39:00 what the Sinatra classic is to which Jan is giving his tantalising, nerve-jangling Bach-style fugue treatment. And no cheating, either… Then, when you’ve lost, watch the whole gig from the beginning, because it really is fabulous. Go here. Also take a look at our Professional friends page if you’d like to read more about the provenance of the string arrangements that underpin the Come Fly With Us project.
21 November 2015: Barcelona, Copenhagen and Malmö debriefed
We had a quick debrief with Jan this evening, following his concerts in Barcelona on Wednesday, Copenhagen on Thursday and Malmö last night. “The duo gig with Mattias [Svensson] at Barcelona’s Jamboree Club worked out very well from a musical standpoint” he tells us. “We’ve played together so long that we basically don’t have to talk much about any aspect of the performance, including the repertoire. The music is just, well, there. The response was great and I really hope we get the chance to return to this wonderful club and city.”
On Thursday, Jan kicked off another Scandinavian tour by the Jan Lundgren-Harry Allen Quartet, with Harry on tenor sax, Hans Backenroth on bass and drummer Kristian Leth. They performed at Copenhagen’s Jazzhus Montmartre where, rather thrillingly, the audience included American piano legend, Horace Parlan. “It was so fantastic to see him!” says Jan. And, as you may already have noticed on Facebook, a nice photo was taken of Horace – who’s been living in Denmark since 1973 – with Jan, Kristian and Hans.
And then, last night, Jan Lundgren Group gave another 100 years with Billie Holiday concert at Malmö’s new Konserthus. There were no fewer than four female vocalists – Karin Krog, Claire Martin, Miriam Aïda and Hannah Svensson – plus Jan, Harry, Hans and Kristian. “The gig was well attended in a superb venue, and I felt privileged to appear again with this project in the company of such wonderful singers and musicians.” And next? “After tomorrow night’s solo concert in Varberg, I’m looking forward to continuing the tour with Harry!”