19 November 2015: JazzBaltica revisited
Amazing what pops up on YouTube, isn’t it? We’ve just found Jan’s entire Kind Of Cool set at this year’s JazzBaltica with Wolfgang Haffner (drums), Christopher Dell (vibes), Jukka Perko (alto sax) and Dan Berglund (bass). Nils Landgren also makes an appearance. It’s a great concert which we’ll just let speak for itself. And, given that Jukka and Dan represent 50% of Jan’s new European Quartet (see our 26 September and 5 May Updates), it’ll give you a rough idea of what to expect when the Quartet’s album is eventually released.
17 November 2015: Mare Nostrum rides again
It’s an open secret that Jan got together in the studio with Richard Galliano and Paolo Fresu over 18 months ago to record what we might call Mare Nostrum II. In fact, the session was announced in the publicity material that accompanied the release of JLT’s Flowers Of Sendai album. And then, very quietly, it dropped out of the news. But now it’s back in – well, at least here at FoJL – given the new series of Mare Nostrum concert dates that has begun to surface for 2016. You can find three of them already on our Gigs page.
So, where’s the record? “There were complicated contractual obligations and rights issues that prevented the album’s release” explains Jan cautiously. “Fortunately they’ve been resolved, and we can now expect the second Mare Nostrum album sooner rather than later…” Which is a fantastic (if slightly vague) development. After all, Mare Nostrum was and still is Jan’s biggest-selling record. ACT has shifted around 50,000 copies of the CD since it was released in 2007, and concert performances are always wildly popular, especially with European audiences. Another Lundgren-Fresu-Galliano album seems to be very much what the discerning public wants and, at last, they’re going to get it.
15 November 2015: Thanks for the memory
During FoJL’s catch-up with Jan last Friday, he shared a few thoughts with us about his current solo tour of southern Sweden. It’s called Musik och Minnen (‘Music and Memories’), and started off in September down in the port of Landskrona. “I’ve been really pleased to see how enthusiastically the concerts are being received” says Jan, who intersperses his playing at the gigs with some reminiscing about the many Swedish and international jazz greats he’s worked with in his long career – Arne Domnérus, Putte Wickman, Bill Perkins, Herb Geller, Clark Terry… the list is endless. “For example, I did a concert in Tingsryd last weekend, which is a small town of no more than 3,000 people, and yet the venue was packed out – as they’ve all been, in fact – with a capacity crowd of nearly 200. You know, I’m very flattered that people are willing to make the effort, and it’s highly rewarding to play – and to talk! – to such warm and appreciative audiences.” Next up for Musik och Minnen: Varberg on 22 November.
12 November 2015: Frode remembered
Maren Victoria Thingnæs, who kindly gave FoJL an album tip in September, recently made a film about the work of her father, Frode, the Norwegian trombonist, composer and bandleader. Among other gems, the programme includes a performance of Rough ridin’ by Frode with fellow Norwegian, Karin Krog, the star vocal attraction of Jan Lundgren Group’s current 100 Years With Billie Holiday project, as well as some great footage of an animated Dizzy Gillespie putting one of Frode’s swinging bands through its paces back in 1971. Maren Victoria’s film is a fascinating – and touching – tribute to her father and, at less than 30 minutes, we think you’ll find it a rewarding investment of your time. Go to NRK’s website here.
9 November 2015: Landgren and Lundgren play Lenny
Who are these guys? From the left: Vince Mendoza, American arranger and composer; German drummer Wolfgang Haffner; Dieter Ilg, double bass player (also from Germany); a pianist called Jan Lundgren (ever heard of him?); and Nils Landgren, Sweden’s greatest living trombonist, some-time singer and all-round showman. Where are they and when? At Sound Studio N in Cologne, Germany, last week. And what are they doing? In the middle of recording an album of Leonard Bernstein songs called Round Bernstein. Wow! Actually, that’s not the whole story. Missing from the photo are Janis Siegel (from the second, 1973 incarnation of US vocal group The Manhattan Transfer), and the brass and woodwind section of the Bochum Symphony Orchestra.
“Round Bernstein is Nils’ baby” explains Jan, pictured here during a break in recording. “I’m just a sideman on this one. But we had a great four days in Cologne and, even better, we’ll be touring the project next year.” Our spies tell us that Janis Siegel sings on four of the album’s tracks – and in a duo setting, presumably with Nils Landgen – while Vince Mendoza, who’s worked with a ton of big names in both jazz and pop, did all the arrangements.
The album will be released on the ACT label (surprise, surprise), and the first concert is scheduled for 19 January at the Berlin Philharmonic, with further tour dates across Germany stretching into May. The gigs are sure to be very popular, so watch out for the specific days and locations, and book your tickets early.
4 November 2015: Prenominated
News reaches us (as they pompously say) that Quietly There has been ‘prenominated’ for a Grammy in the ‘Best Jazz Instrumental Album’ category – that is, a release which contains at least 51% playing time of new instrumental jazz recordings. Don’t get too excited, though, because another 327 albums have also been prenominated… All 328 recordings are in the process of being whittled down to just five ‘final’ nominations, to be announced in early December, and the winner will be proclaimed at the 58th Grammys award ceremony in Los Angeles on 15 February. The list of prenominations for all the various awards within the overall ‘Jazz’ category runs to a staggering 20 closely-typed pages, each of which is watermarked with the slightly sinister admonition “Proprietary Information Not For Distribution”. So don’t ask us how we got hold of it; let’s just say that it fell off the back of a truck. Joking aside (although there’s probably nothing very funny about being pursued by the snarling legal hounds of The Recording Academy), FoJL is pretty impressed that Quietly There has made it to at least this initial cut for a 2016 Grammy. The competition is unimaginably fierce.
21 October 2015: One for the Dutch
Here’s a first for FoJL: an album review in Dutch, published last June by Jazzflits, which is an independent periodical for jazz fans in the Netherlands and Flanders region of Belgium. The record under discussion is Jan’s Johnny Mandel collaboration with Harry Allen, Quietly There (2014), summed up in the review as “great for fans of mainstream, light swooning saxophone”. Although FoJL’s Dutch is non-existent, Jazzflits looks like a very thorough piece of work. It also seems to be free. The Quietly There review appears on page 12 of this PDF – Jazzflits (no. 240) – and you can look at or download both older and more recent editions of the newsletter here. Our thanks go to Marion and Matthies Klink in Goirle, Holland, for passing on this nice little find.
17 October 2015: Name that tune
FoJL had a jolly evening last night at Jan’s Frank Sinatra/Putte Wickman tribute concert with singer Hayati Kafe and Klas Lindquist, on both clarinet and alto sax, at Teater Lederman in Stockholm. As you can see from our photo, it was a pretty intimate and relaxed setting, and things were helpfully lubricated for the performers by a strategically placed bottle of white wine. Hayati crooned his way amiably through a large number of Sinatra favourites, including a particularly fetching rendition of Nancy with the laughing face. He also treated us to a Rat Pack-esque change of lyrics in Mack the knife so that “Janne Lundgren” and “‘good ol’ Klas” got a mention too – plus, in true cheesy Las Vegas style, drummer Ronnie Gardiner, who happened to be in the audience. Klas played as wonderfully as Wickman himself, deftly alternating between his two instruments in the middle of songs, while Jan accompanied Hayati and Klas with his usual exquisite aplomb.
Jan played a couple of solos as well, one of which saw the welcome return of his exciting ‘Name that tune’ party piece – you know, when he kicks off in the idiom of a Bach fugue, forcing the auditorium to guess which jazz standard the tune is evenually going to turn into. Overwhelmed by the nail-biting tension of this experience, two or three of the audience couldn’t resist shouting out their guesses while Jan was still playing his opening bars. They were wrong, of course, as the piece playfully progressed and morphed – finally – into Fly me to the moon. Really, it was all great fun.
16 October 2015: Who’s stealing my bike?
As befits his superstar status, Jan usually travels around Stockholm in a stretch limo. But it’s being gold-plated at the moment, so he’s having to use a bicycle instead. Leif Domnérus – venerable Swedish jazz writer/blogger (and son of the great Arne, in case you’re wondering about his surname) – snapped these photos last night of someone trying to steal it… No, wait a minute… It’s actually Jan struggling to lock the contraption to a signpost (er, is that legal?).
Leif caught Jan red-handed while he was parking up before the release gig for the new album by vocal and guitar duo, Two Generations – the father and daughter combo of Hannah Svensson and Ewan Svensson. The album’s called For You, and it’s on Sweden’s Dragon label. If Hannah’s name also seems familiar, it’s because Jan produced her first solo CD, Each Little Moment, which was released by Volenza last year. And if you haven’t come across Ewan before, you really should check him out. Bengt-Arne Wallin, the veteran Swedish bandleader and arranger, is on record stating that Ewan “belongs to a very small group of guitarists who have a unique sound which is topped by a totally flawless technique”. And what’s Bengt-Arne’s opinion of Two Generations itself? “A new and fresh duo in Swedish music [who] deliver total pleasure.” So don’t say nobody told you.
7 October 2015: In good company
Anton Garcia-Fernandez’s review of Jan’s latest release, A Retrospective (see the 27 September Update below), resurfaced last night – albeit in a slightly different form – on his jazz blog, The Vintage Bandstand. That’s nice, of course. But what’s really fun about Anton’s post is the company Jan’s keeping: Erroll Garner, whose classic 1955 recording Concert By The Sea has just been reissued in its original uncut form; and Tony Bennett’s fine new collection of Jerome Kern songs, The Silver LIning, on which he’s accompanied by Bill Charlap at the piano. What do the albums reviewed by Anton have in common? They are, he says, “linked by the fact that they feature three outstanding pianists“. Which is also nice.
And there’s another link, too. Seven of the Tony Bennett album’s tracks feature Bill Charlap in a trio line-up with fellow Americans Peter Washington on bass and drummer Kenny Washington (no relation). If those names seem familiar to you in a Lundgren context, it’s because both Washingtons were in Jan’s trio for the 2005 album Jan Lundgren In New York, while Peter also played bass on Jan’s earlier releases, New York Calling (1995) and A Touch Of You (1998). Bennett, Lundgren, Washington(s): now, that’s what we’d call really good company.
5 October 2015: Audio alchemy
How do you restore the forlorn tangle of a 1955 original master tape into something that can be digitised and appreciated by a new audience 60 years later? It’s a task that Geneva-based record producer and sound engineer David Hadzis grapples with on a regular basis. As well as running his own recording studio, David is the project manager of the United Music Foundation, which is an organisation dedicated to preserving and enhancing recorded music across all its genres (and whose support committee, we note approvingly, includes none other than the wonderful Petula Clark). He also produced and remastered the 2014 four-CD box set of Sidney Bechet in Switzerland that Jan recommended as an album tip last month.
FoJL got a friendly email yesterday from David (pictured below) to say thank you for the recommendation, as well as alerting us to the latest release from the Foundation. It’s a two-CD set celebrating the 1970s recordings of French chantreuse, Nicole Croisille, called Il Était Une Fois…Nicole. Also an actress, Nicole was a big star of popular music across the francophone world in the ’70s and early ’80s and today, at almost 80, she continues to perform and record. And then, if you look at the other artists whose recordings have been preserved by the Foundation, you’ll see a vast array of illustrious European, American and other names, spanning the gamut from Jack Diéval and Michel Legrand to Stan Getz, Bill Evans and Sarah Vaughan – and that’s just scratching the surface. Having already been given David’s alchemic treatment, let’s hope these mostly unreleased audio treasures also get issued at some point.
27 September 2015: Classy and elegant
Anton Garcia-Fernandez – publisher of highly respected US jazz blog The Vintage Bandstand, professor of Spanish at the University of Tennessee at Martin, and easily America’s biggest Jan Lundgren fan south of the Mason-Dixon Line – has written an enthusiastic, five-star review of A Retrospective. Headed “The perfect introduction to Jan Lundgren’s work”, he has some very complimentary things to say about pretty much all the album’s tracks, as well as providing a little background to the various phases of Jan’s long career, both as sideman and leader, that each selection represents. Citing Jan’s ability to infuse every cut with “class and elegance”, Anton (pictured on the left of our photo, sporting a fine American flag) ends his review by remarking that “if you like jazz piano of the highest order, it doesn’t get much better than Jan Lundgren these days”. FoJL couldn’t agree more, naturally. You can read Anton’s full comments here.
26 September 2015: Exhilarating Essen
“So, the first-ever concert with my new European Quartet is done!” an excited Jan told FoJL this morning. He performed last night in the sold-out RWE Pavillon (pictured) of the Philhamonie at Essen, Germany, along with Jukka Perko on alto sax, Dan Berglund on bass and Morten Lund on drums. “With so much new original music, it was both an exhilarating and an exhausting evening. But the fabulous audience gave us strong support, and we did our best to give them something special in return. It was very pleasing to see how well everybody worked together and, I must say, a real honour for me to play with some of the world’s greatest musicians in the same band.”
If Jan’s comments whet your appetite, you’ll be delighted to learn that the first album by Jan Lundgren European Quartet will be released on the ACT label about 12 months from now. It’s a frustratingly long time to wait, isn’ it? Regular readers of these Updates (see our 5 May 2015 story) will know that Jan, Jukka, Dan and Morten recorded the tracks back in the early summer in Berlin… But, hey, that’s the music industry for you.
24 September 2015: Relaxed and humorous
A short review of Jan’s solo concert, Music and memories, last Sunday in Landskrona (see the Update below) was published this morning on the website of Helsingborgs Dagblad. Go here to read it. The piece features a couple of fun photos, too (snapped by Håkan Karlsson): on the left, Jan’s doing the ‘music’ part of the gig and, on the right, he’s clearly fulfilling his ‘memories’ obligations for the evening. The reviewer, Cecila Kraitiss, describes Jan as “relaxed and humorous”, while observing that, when it comes to using a piano, he can “express himself like few others”. All of which augers very well for the rest of Jan’s Musik i Syd solo concert series.
21 September 2015: A nice long solo
Avid readers of FoJL’s Gigs page will have noticed that Jan is playing an unusually large number of solo concerts over the coming months. Why’s that? “It’s a new series of gigs produced by Musik i Syd” he explains in a quick catch-up today. “Running from now until spring 2016, the series is called Musik och Minnen – ‘Music and memories’ in English. It’s rather a fitting title, in fact, given that I’m going to be 50 next March…” adds a decidedly wistful Jan. “I did the first concert last night at Landskrona in southern Sweden [pictured here]. The old Malmsjö Grand had seen better days, but had no serious flaws, and was generally a nice instrument to play on. Even nicer, the performance was sold out and the audience was wonderful.”
14 September 2015: Good start to the day
It’s written in to the employment contracts of everyone in FoJL’s global workforce (ha ha) that the very first thing they need to do on waking up in the morning is to read the latest daily post at Marc Myers’ New York-based jazz and popular culture blog, JazzWax – which is, quite simply, the ‘granddaddy’ of all jazz blogs. And what did they find there this morning? An entire entry devoted to Jan’s latest album, A Retrospective. Marc lists the record’s highlights for him personally, as well as providing a bit of back-story to how Jan’s relationship with producer Dick Bank began. You can read the piece here. And, if you didn’t already know, JazzWax has an extended Q&A-style interview with Jan that first appeared in September 2014.
13 September 2015: Barnstorming in Meinier
As part of the 15th Amadeus Festival, Jan Lundgren Trio did another gig with ace harmonica player, Grégoire Maret, on Friday night (11 September) in the little town of Meinier, close to Geneva. “It was a sold-out concert of about 450 people” reports a slightly breathless Jan. “And we performed in an old barn – magical! Playing with Grégoire is always a treat: he’s such a great musician – in fact, he’s what you might call ‘a musician’s musician’. As ever in Switzerland, too, the audience was wonderful.”
10 September 2015: Five stars in Swedish
Further to our 21 August Update, Jan Olsson’s English-language review of Jan’s latest release, A Retrospective, has now popped up in Swedish on the DIG Jazz website. The recording gets five stars from an ever-enthusiastic Mr Olsson – the highest rating, we believe, that DIG Jazz awards (although do let us know if you’ve ever seen an album win six stars). Those of you whose Swedish is up to it should go here.
5 September 2015: Signed, sealed, delivered…
We were contacted the other day by an FoJL friend, Bo Ingvar Svensson, who lives down near Landskrona in southern Sweden. Bo Ingvar’s got a little sideline in taking photographs of jazz musicians, mounting them on card and hand-painting (in watercolours) an associated album sleeve. He managed to catch Jan at home in Ystad earlier this year – slightly off guard, we suspect – who sat for a photo and then signed 20 numbered copies. Bo Ingvar has also produced portraits of other jazz greats, including Count Basie, Woody Herman and Arne Domnérus. There’s rather a lot of work involved in this kind of thing, so Bo Ingvar offers the portraits for sale. The one of Jan is SEK 1 550 (including packaging and posting) and, for each Lundgren portrait that someone buys, Bo Ingvar will donate SEK 250 to Ystad Sweden Jazz Festival. If you’re interested, send Bo Ingvar an email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or call him on his mobile: +46 70 698 9284. Oh, and we’d like to emphasise – very strongly – that neither FoJL nor Jan will get a single penny from this (it’s just not our style), but at least you’ll have the comfort of knowing that YSJF will.
30 August 2015: JLT swings hard in Copenhagen
Jan Lundgren Trio is now back in Sweden after playing two successive nights (yesterday and Friday) at Copenhagen’s legendary jazz venue, Montmartre. The super-talented Danish pianist and composer, Søren Bebe, was smart enough to have bought a ticket for Saturday evening’s gig before they all sold out, and kindly emailed us a mini-review of JLT’s concert, together with a nice photo, very early this morning.
“The interplay between Jan, Mattias and Zoltan is hugely enjoyable” writes Søren. “Underpinned by Jan’s great and clever harmonic richness, the Trio really gave new life to some old standards. They also played a few originals, which I equally enjoyed. The stand-out tunes for me were Visa vid vindens ängar [a now-classic Swedish summer song composed and recorded in the mid-1960s by Mats Paulson], and a hard-swinging, Oscar Peterson-inspired version of Things ain’t what they used to be. Yep, it was a great concert!”
And Søren (pictured) should know what he’s talking about. His trio’s most recent album, Eva (featuring Marc Johnson), was called a “tour de force of both style and content” by the UK’s Jazz Journal and, among other achievements, Søren Bebe Trio has been chosen to represent some of the very best of contemporary Danish jazz at a showcase concert in Hamburg this November.
21 August 2015: Almost a necessity
Jan Olsson, veteran Swedish jazz writer and regular contributor to the DIG Jazz website, has written a review – in English – of the new Jan Lundgren compilation album, A Retrospective, on Doug Ramsey’s Rifftides blog. You can read it here. Jan Olsson places Jan squarely in the pantheon of great Swedish jazz pianists along with Jan Johansson and Bengt Hallberg, and concludes that A Retrospective is “an almost necessary investigation” for anyone who doesn’t already own Jan Lundgren’s Fresh Sound albums. So there. (And why, by the way, is half the adult male population of Sweden called ‘Jan’? It can sometimes make writing these Updates very tricky…)