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Jan Lundgren: Swedish Standards

Lundgren, the brilliant young Swedish pianist, leads trios from both sides of the Atlantic and proves that he is equally impressive in the company of home boys and that of top New York players. His colleagues on New York Calling are bassist Peter Washington and drummer Billy Drummond. His repertoire includes three attractive originals and compositions by Duke Ellington, Bud Powell, Randy Weston, Sam Rivers, Sergio Mihanovich and Hubert Laws. He also plays two superb Swedish pieces, Lars Gullin’s “Danny’s Dream” and the traditional “Vrmlandsvisan (Dear Old Stockholm).” He performs his one unaccompanied chorus of “Dear Old Stockholm” in its unadulterated form; that is, without the interludes inserted by Miles Davis in the 1950s and slavishly copied by jazz players ever since. How refreshing. In the introduction to Mihanovich’s “Sometime Ago,” Lundgren evokes Ellington’s “Reflections in D.” His interpretation of Rivers’ “Beatrice” is exquisite.

Swedish Standards is a collection of songs native to Lundgren’s homeland, some popular, some traditional, one by his great piano predecessor Bengt Hallberg. All of them nicely serve his jazz purposes, inspiring full-bodied, occasionally astringent, harmonies. Lundgren maintains his easy but firm touch through the fastest passages, producing an unusual consistency of tone. His time feeling is relaxed and unfailingly swinging. Hallberg’s “Waltz-a-nova” has the potential to become a jazz standard. “Min Blekingsbygd” has the kind of charm that made “Dear Old Stockholm” attractive to Americans when Stan Getz imported it nearly 50 years ago. Bassist Mattias Svensson and drummer Rasmus Kihlberg are definitely in Lundgren’s league. Throughout, Svensson plays with strength, sensitivity and gorgeous tone. His solos on “Solen glimmar blank och trind” and the funky “Joachim uti Babylon” are highlights of the album. At 32, Lundgren has developed into one of the most impressive pianists of his generation.

Originally Published