18 August 2015: Fun in Falkenberg
With the holiday season only now just coming to an end in the Nordic countries, things have been rather quiet here recently. But Jan, of course, has been working. He showed up, for instance, at the annual jazz festival they hold in Falkenberg, a great little town on the rocky west coast of Sweden. And here’s a picture of him to prove it, playing a set with Ewan Svensson on guitar, bassist Mats Nilsson, Harry Allen on tenor sax and drummer Magnus Gran. You can find a short review of the gig (in Swedish) by Jan Olsson at the DIG Jazz website.
In other news, A Retrospective, the new Jan Lundgren compilation album released – bafflingly – with zero fanfare by Fresh Sound in time for this year’s Ystad Sweden Jazz Festival, has become available for purchase as a download at iTunes and in physical CD form (as well as in MP3 format) at Amazon. You can also now stream the album on Spotify. No reviews of A Retrospective as yet, so please do let us know if you find one.
5 August 2015: News from Ystad
The sixth Ystad Sweden Jazz Festival ended on Sunday evening – and what a festival it was. Doug Ramsey has been doing a fine job of posting regular reports on Rifftides, and doubtless there’ll be more to come from other jazz journalists in the days and weeks ahead. Rifftides is carrying a particularly informative review this morning of Jan’s Thursday night concert, Lycklig resa – Jan Johannson i våra hjärtan (‘Happy journey – Jan Johansson in our hearts’), which he performed with the Jive Master, Mattias Svensson, on bass and a truly wonderful string quartet.
It was a thrilling gig. A good 50 percent of the set was drawn from the classic Johansson/Riedel album Jazz På Svenska which, given its iconic status, none but the best should even think of attempting. Needless to say, however, Jan and the band found countless new and intriguing aspects to the tunes, while remaining true to the spirit of their original treatment by Johansson. Then, after some equally deft selections from Johansson’s Russian and Hungarian-inspired albums, Jan closed with a marvellous new composition called Lycklig resa, his personal salute to the genius of Johansson. Why that title? “If you look carefully at the bag on the cover of Jazz På Svenska, you’ll see the words ‘Lycklig resa’ sewn into the fabric” Jan told a curious audience at Ystads Teater. The inevitable encore followed: a rollicking, fun-filled version of Johansson’s theme-song for the Pippi Longstocking films and TV series – Här kommer Pippi Långstrump.
FoJL unfortunately had to leave Ystad on Saturday morning, so we missed Jan’s Billie Holiday tribute that night. But we did get a chance to chat with Jan, who told us that he recently recorded selections of the material for a new, upcoming album. It’ll be released by Denmark-based Stunt Records and, in addition to Jan, features the great Karin Krog on vocals, Scott Hamilton on tenor sax, Jacob Fischer on guitar, Hans Backenroth on bass and Kristian Leth on drums. There’s no specific date yet for the CD’s release, but we’ll let you know when it’s announced.
And then, on sale in a marquee outside Ystads Teater, we stumbled across another new CD from Jan that no-one really knew had been released. Called A Retrospective, it’s a ‘best of’ selection of songs that he’s recorded for the Fresh Sound label over the last 20 or so years. “All the tracks have been remastered by Bernie Grundman” explains Jan. “He’s done terrific work in making them sound even fresher than the originals.” You can read more (and buy the CD) here on Fresh Sound’s website.
21 July 2015: Doug does it again
Apparently overcome by a sudden surge of Lundgren enthusiasm, the erudite Doug Ramsey (see yesterday’s Update) posted a mini-review last night on Rifftides of JLT’s 2014 album, Flowers Of Sendai, in which he says particularly nice things about Jan’s two solos on the CD: the eponymous Flowers of Sendai and Lush life. The most fervent Jan Lundgren admirers among you will know that the Japanese edition of Flowers actually includes a third solo track – Yesterdays. If you want to remind yourself why, scroll down to the 20 October 2014 Update in FoJL’s Archive.
20 July 2015: Ystad previewed
Fans of Doug Ramsey’s august US-based jazz blog, Rifftides, will already know that yesterday’s post was devoted to the upcoming 2015 Ystad Sweden Jazz Festival. Not surprisingly, given that Jan is the festival’s co-founder and artisic director, Doug’s piece previewed Mr Lundgren’s two YSJF performances (see our Gigs page for details), as well as those of the many other outstanding musicians who’ll be putting in an appearance this year. What the post omits to mention is that FoJL will be at Ystad too, backed up by our global command truck and mobile satellite communications unit, so that you don’t miss out on any important Jan Lundgren news that emerges from the festival. And if you see FoJL’s secretary, Guy Jones, wandering friendlessly around the town centre or scribbling maniacally in his notebook during the gigs, do go and introduce yourself to him. He’ll be delighted to meet you.
7 July 2015: Two centenaries and festivals
Despite being in the middle of a rather hectic week of performing in and around Scandinavia, Jan found some time for a catch-up call with FoJL today. His current burst of activity kicked off on Saturday (4 July) with a 100 Years With Billie Holiday concert at the Copenhagen Jazz Festival – “a very nice crowd of around 600 people” Jan reliably informs us – followed on Sunday by an appearance at Jazz Baltica on the north German coast with all but one of the original recording line-up for Jan’s Kind Of Cool project with Wolfgang Haffner – “a sold-out gig which went extremely well at one of Europe’s most established jazz festivals”. Last night Jan was at Skansen in Stockholm, playing al fresco in a quartet ensemble with Scott Hamilton – “an audience of about 1,200 gamely stayed with us through the rather rainy and miserable weather” – and tonight he’ll be in Strömsholm in rural Sweden for the final Billie Holiday celebration of the summer (and perhaps ever?). Then, on 8 and 11 July, there are two further outings in Sweden for the Come Fly With Us Sinatra centenary project that was so well received when it first toured earlier this year.
25 June 2015: A unique opportunity
After a relatively quiet June, Jan’s summer performing schedule is starting to get busier. July and August, for example, will see three repeats of the 100 Years With Billie Holiday show that played to a sold-out Stockholms Konserthus back in April. The gigs are at Copenhagen Jazz Festival on 4 July, Jazzens Museum in the Swedish town of Strömsholm on 7 July, and Ystad Sweden Jazz Festival on 1 August. As Jan reminds us in a quick catch-up this morning: “These three performances provide a unique and, perhaps, never-to-be-repeated opportunity to see and hear a celebrated project that features the legendary Norwegian singer Karin Krog. Now 78 years old, Karin has in many ways acquired the same status as the great Monica Zetterlund in being acknowledged as one of Europe’s finest jazz vocalists.” Go to our Gigs page if you want to know more.
24 June 2015: Good news at Gedächtniskirche
Although it was Midsommar last Saturday (20 June), when his fellow Swedes were dancing around fertility symbols and doing other ancient but deeply strange things while fuelled by industrial amounts of alcohol, Jan was hard at work with Paolo Fresu and Richard Galliano in yet another Mare Nostrum performance at the Palatia Jazz Festival in Germany. “About 600 people turned up to see us at the amazing Gedächtniskirche church in Speyer” Jan reports. “Yet again, it was a phenomenal gig in a fabulous venue… Am I starting to sound a bit repetitive?!” No, Jan; it’s always nice to get good news.
10 June 2015: Iceland – the prequel
Just when you thought you wouldn’t have to grapple with any more Icelandic, another newspaper article from the windswept Atlantic outpost popped up in our mailbox, courtesy of René Hess, Jan’s manager. It’s a kind of ‘prequel’ to Jan Lundgren Trio’s 4 June gig in Reykjavik which appeared in the 31 May edition of Morgunbladid, Iceland’s second biggest daily. Thanks to Google Translate, we can tell you that the article’s title means “Jazz has give [sic] me much” – hardly the most elegant of translations, yet good enough to provide a general idea. But then, when we reached the main text, GT suffered a meltdown and started churning out total gibberish. See if you can do any better: Morgunbladid p1, Morgunbladid p2. René assures us that the article is very good, so his Icelandic must be a lot more advanced than Google’s.
9 June 2015: Watch it again
Go to the bottom of the class if you don’t know who those hands belong to in this television picture. They were snapped on a TV set in the space-age communications hub of FoJL’s global headquarters. The set itself is controlled by a demonic robot that continuously scans the world’s television channels looking for clips of Jan Lundgren. And, as you can see, the robot actually found one last Sunday afternoon… It was an unexpected repeat on Sweden’s SVT2 of the wonderful Memories of Bengt Hallberg concert in March 2014 featuring Jan and a number of other iconic Swedish musicians that we told you about in our 31 January and 1 February 2015 Updates. Don’t panic if you missed it, because SVT has made the film available on its website – here – to watch again (and again) until early July. Copyright restrictions mean it’ll be tricky for you to access the site if you’re not in Sweden, but maybe you know an internet boffin who’s clever enough to get around the problem. Try if you can: great music, great sound, great pictures.
8 June 2015: A 5-star journey
How’s your Icelandic? Well, never mind, because Google Tranlsate is quite good at it. And that’s why we know that Jan Lundgren Trio’s Reykjavik concert last Thursday got some glowing reviews in the local press. Writing in Frettabladid, Iceland’s biggest national daily, classical pianist Jonas Sen – who’s also worked with Björk, by the way – gave Jan, Mattias and Zoltan five stars for their efforts, concluding that it was an “absolutely fantastic peformance” which “it’s safe to say has been the best concert of the year so far” (you can see Jonas’ piece here). Iceland’s second daily newspaper, Morgunbladid, echoed Frettabladid’s enthusiasm by awarding JLT four out of five stars.
We also know that, before the gig, Jan and the boys found time for a little excursion through Iceland’s wild and wonderful landscape. Jan sent us these photos yesterday, which make clear just how dramatic the scenery can be. We’re not entirely sure, but the thing that Jan is standing in front of seems to be a sulphur pool – you know, the sort of bubbling mud that suddenly erupts with no warning for arcane geothermal reasons. Or maybe it isn’t. Anyway, Iceland looks like a great place.
6 June 2015: Expanding Reykjavik
A quick debrief arrived from Jan yesterday evening following Jan Lundgren Trio’s gig on Thursday in Reykjavik: “It was a great, great concert!” he tells us. “The usual capacity of 500 for the Harpa hall we played in was sold out, so they expanded the number of seats by another 150 – and those all sold out as well!” Perhaps the city fathers of Reykjavik should now consider building a bigger auditorium?
3 June 2015: Icelandic sell-out
Distressing news for all those Jan Lundgren fans who live in Reykjavik and delayed buying their tickets for Thursday night’s JLT gig at Harpa Concert Hall. The magnificent venue – which seats around 500 people – now appears to be sold out. And if you think we’re indulging in some of FoJL’s habitual sarcasm by referring to “all those” JL fans in a small country like Iceland, bear in mind the following statistic: a sold-out Harpa means that nearly 0.5% of the entire population of Reykjavik will be watching Jan Lundgren Trio tomorrow evening!
31 May 2015: Come rain or come shine
FoJL took a trip down to the southern Stockholm suburbs yesterday afternoon to catch Jan in a quintet line-up at the annual Huddinge Jazz & Blues Festival, which is always an open-air event. And, boy, did it rain… and rained and rained and rained. Not that it stopped everyone enjoying themselves. Although he’d stepped off the plane from New York only two hours earlier, a wide-awake Harry Allen (tenor sax) played like he was the most rested guy in the world – as did the perpetually energetic Jacob Fischer (guitar), the relentlessly swinging Hans Backenroth (bass) and cool-dude Dane Kristian Leth (drums). Jan and the boys ripped through a 50-minute set which, among other songs, covered some of the best-loved bits of Billie Holiday’s catalogue, took a brief foray into Jan Johansson (Blues in octaves) and diverted through Brazil (with a terrifically upbeat version of the Jobim classic, How insensitive) – perhaps as a sunny counterpoint to the appalling Swedish weather. Next stop: a Jan Lundgren Trio concert on Thursday (4 June) in Reykjavik where, given the kind of climate Iceland is famous for, we hope the gig will be held inside…
20 May 2015: The Italian job
FoJL had a catch-up with Jan yesterday about his weekend in Italy. “Two really great gigs in Vicenza. The first was a solo performance in a museum [pictured] last Friday evening at which a wonderful Italian photographer, Pino Ninfa, ‘mixed’ photos live to my music. The theme was war pictures spanning the period from WWI to WWII, as well as more recent conflicts in the Middle East, the Balkans and the Ukraine. It was a very emotional hour or so of improvising music to the photography.”
“The second concert was a Mare Nostrum line-up at Vicenza’s Teatro Olimpico – which has to be one of the most spectacular theatres anywhere. It was among the best concerts we’ve ever had and it was packed out. In fact, the promoter told me they could have sold all the seats two or three times over. The Italian jazz scene is maybe the strongest in the world right now, with a big audience that seems to include all the generations.” (By the way, if you’re interested in these things, Teatro Olimpico was built well over 400 years ago and is one of only three original Renaissance theatres that remain in existence. Take a closer look on Wikipedia. And here’s a picture of Richard Galliano that Jan took during the rehearsal, in which you can see the curious backdrop – a ‘real’ lane that forms part of the theatre’s permanent scenery.)
On his way back to the airport on Sunday, Jan’s car was involved in a small traffic accident when a tyre exploded. “The Italian police came and graciously took me to the nearest taxi station!” says a delighted Jan. Isn’t it reassuring to find out that the Carabinieri know their Scandinavian jazz? They’re also endearingly relaxed about having their photo taken with one of the genre’s leading protagonists.
12 May 2015: Stavanger again
Following on from yesterday’s Update, we’ve found another good review of the Maijazz 100 Years With Billie Holiday concert on the Norwegian website, Salt Peanuts. You can read it here. The reviewer, Jan Granlie, talks about the “solid band” behind Karin Krog, with a special mention for Hans Backenroth’s “brilliant bass playing” and his growing reputation as “a real veteran of Scandinavian mainstream jazz”. (Perhaps we should rename this fan club ‘Friends of Jan Lundgren and Hans Backenroth‘…) All credit to Hans, and we salute his promotion to veteran status by including a nice photo – taken by Tor Hammerø during the Maijazz festival – of Mr Backenroth with two other truly magnificent Scandinavian bassists, fellow Swede Georg Riedel (left) and Bjørn Alterhaug (right) from Norway.
11 May 2015: More about Norway
FoJL just got an email from Sweden’s very own ace of bass, the great Hans Backenroth, alerting us to a post by Norwegian jazz blogger, Tor Hammerø, about Jan Lundgren Group’s 100 Years With Billie Holiday gig at Maijazz last Thursday. He also sent us this newspaper cutting of a photo of Karin Krog and Scott Hamilton on stage, in which you can see Hans working hard on bass and Kristian Leth on drums. (No sign of Jan in the picture, but we assume he’s off to the left somewhere.) “Yes, it was a great night in Stavanger” confirms Hans. “I hope this project continues even after Holiday’s anniversary is over.” So do we.
10 May 2015: Italian sensation
Another Mare Nostrum concert yesterday evening, and another enthusiastic audience that insisted on three encores – wow! Jan performed with Paolo Fresu and Richard Galliano at Teatro Verdi in Florence, a beautiful 800-seat auditorium built in 1854. “It was a sensational night at an amazing venue” Jan tells us. As we’ve said before in these Updates, the popularity of Mare Nostrum seems to have no end, especially in Italy. Next Saturday (16 May) sees a further Italian outing for the project, when Jan, Richard and Paolo perform as part of the Vicenza Jazz Festival. You can read the details here.
8 May 2015: Stavanger serendipity
“Had a fine concert last night in beautiful Stavanger, Norway” Jan writes in an email this morning, referring to his 100 Years With Billie Holiday project with – on this occasion – Karin Krog, Scott Hamilton, Hans Backenroth and Kristian Leth. “The gig was part of Maijazz, which is an extremely well-organised festival that’s been running since 1989. Playing on stage a bit later yesterday was Dave Holland’s Prism, and Hans snapped a photo of the two of us in the hotel lobby.” (The lady on the left with the plastic bag is, of course, Karin Krog.) This is all rather serendipitous, because the great Dave Holland will give a duo concert with the equally great Kenny Barron at this year’s Ystad Sweden Jazz Festival on 2 August at the Grand Finale.
5 May 2015: Meanwhile in Berlin…
Jan got back from Berlin today after his first recording project for ACT as leader since he rejoined the German label last year. “All I can tell you – without saying too much – is that I’m very, very happy…” a tight-lipped Jan cryptically informs us. The album, which doesn’t have an official release date yet, is by Jan’s new quartet, whose members are Jukka Perko (alto sax), Dan Berglund (bass) and Morten Lund (drums). The recording was made in Studio 1 of the legendary Hansa Studios, close to Potsdamer Platz, and we’ve got the evidence to prove it happened, because Jan sent us these nice pictures. Naturally, you can rely on FoJL to keep you fully up to date about this important new record as further details emerge.
1 May 2015: One for the photo album
If you’ve read the March 2015 edition of JLN, you’ll know that teaching still plays an important part in Jan’s professional life. So, in his capacity as an associate professor at the Malmö Academy of Music, Jan has spent the last four days leading a workshop for his students, at which they explored Duke Ellington’s musical partnership with Billy Strayhorn. “It’s been a lot of fun and the students were great” he told us yesterday evening after the course had finished. He also sent this end-of-workshop photo. Who’s that guy in the centre of the back row, waving his arm in the air?
27 April 2015: Double bill
Jan Lundgren Trio played two concerts over the weekend. The first was a performance on Friday night with Grégoire Maret as part of the Basel Jazz Festival. “The evening was actually a double bill” reports Jan. “We shared the stage with the great Lars Danielsson, who was performing his Liberetto II project.” As you can see, Jan also managed to squeeze in a little photo-shoot with his smartphone of Zoltan and Mattias. And then last night, at Stora Teatern in Gothenburg, JLT teamed up with Bengt-Arne Wallin (pictured here with Jan before the gig) and the Bohuslän Big Band for their third performance of Swedish Folklore NOW! “We had a really great evening!” Jan told us afterwards.
21 April 2015: Now we know
The YSJF 2015 press conference held this morning is now over (which, as our photos show, involved Jan playing as well as talking), so we finally know this year’s programme. It’s a very good one, too, featuring a glittering array of Nordic and international stars. Jan’s concert on the Saturday night (1 August) is, as a lot of you already knew, a performance of the Jan Lundgren Group’s 100 Years With Billie Holiday project. And on the Thursday before (30 July), he’s getting together with both the Jive Master (aka Mattias Svensson, inimitable JLT bassist) and a string quartet for an exploration and celebration of the music of Jan Johansson, the legendary Swedish pianist and composer. You can see the full 2015 programme here on YSJF’s wesbite, and tickets will be on sale from tomorrow, 22 April. Book early, because the ‘headline’ gigs are certain to sell out very quickly. Oh, and there’s a video of Jan being interviewed about this year’s festival here on the website of Ystads Allehanda.
Jan and his fellow Ystad Sweden Jazz Festival organisers will be announcing the 2015 programme at a press conference on Tuesday this week. In the old days (that is, for the 2010-2014 festivals), they did this by holding a morning conference in Ystad and then dashing over to Malmö airport to catch the next available flight up to Stockholm for a repeat performance in the afternoon. But now, for YSJF 2015, they’ll be broadcasting the Ystad conference live on the internet. So this not only spares Jan and the organising committee a mad scramble for the plane; it also enables everyone to watch the event in ‘real time’ from the comfort of their own computer, tablet or smartphone. The press conference begins at 1100 CET on 21 April, and is being broadcast by Ystads Allehanda on its web-TV page – here. You’ll also be able to listen to the conference live on Ystad’s RadioActive – here.