Svensk Jazzhistoria Vol. 7: Swedish Jazz 1952-1955
When Stan Getz recorded in 1951 with a group of Swedish all-stars, he introduced to Americans more than a new jazz standard, "Dear Old Stockholm (Ack, Varmeland du Skona)." He also made them aware that Sweden had world-class modern jazz players following in the footsteps of the brilliant clarinetist Stan Hasselgard, who died in 1948. Pianist Bengt Hallberg, bassist Gunnar Johnson, drummer Jack Noren and baritone saxophonist Lars Gullin, who were on the Getz date, were prime examples. This three-CD box is packed with their high-level work and that of other distinguished Swedish musicians, among them alto saxophonist Arne Domnerus, trombonist Ake Persson and trumpeter Rolf Ericson. It is a generous survey of the country's jazz during a period of intensive activity, musical growth and wide acceptance.
Eleven of the album's 65 tracks feature Hallberg as leader, arranger or sideman and together constitute perhaps the most complete disclosure under one cover of the extent of his talent. A pianist admired in Europe and the US for his fluency, touch and harmonic acuity, he wrote music with the same sense of discovery he brought to his solos. His 1953 concert recording of "All the Things You Are" shows how completely Hallberg understood and absorbed postwar jazz developments and blended them into the cool classicism of his piano style. His 1954 "Blue Grapes," for an octet, is a meld of blues sonorities, folk harmonies and a stately, almost baroque, sense of calm. Gullin ranked with Hallberg as an original. He was a contemporary of Gerry Mulligan and Serge Chaloff and reached maturity and individuality in his own way, as his playing on pieces like "Danny's Dream" and "Galium Verum" shows. Domnerus, Persson and Ericson were more directly in the pattern of their U.S. heroes, but played with skill and inspiration equal to American jazzmen their age. Ericson and drummer Nils-Bertil Dahlander (using the name Bert Dale) had successful careers in the States.
Those are the Swedish players best known in this country, but the Caprice box is full of tracks by other musicians who populated the country's jazz scene in the 1950s, many of them first rate. They include clarinetist Putte Wickman, bassist Georg Riedel and guitarist Rune Gustafsson. Most of the music is one shade or another of bebop, but the box also contains tracks illustrating the Swedish traditional jazz revival movement, an attempt by Domnerus to jump on the rock 'n' roll bandwagon with a jazz cover of "Rock Around the Clock," and a few novelty pieces. It also has the celebrated 1953 meeting of Clifford Brown, Art Farmer and Quincy Jones with the cream of Swedish jazzmen in "Stockholm Sweetnin'."
The album imparts a solid sense of the vitality and variety in Sweden during a few years when its jazz scene was second only to that in the United States.