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Jan Lundgren Trio: Landscapes

Jan Lundgren is a Swedish pianist with a substantial following in his own country. Landscapes is his sixth recording for the Swedish Sittel label, and the CD is represented as “the missing link in his artistic identity: his roots in his native musical culture.” A program of traditional Swedish folk songs is supplemented with Lundgren’s own compositions on Swedish folkloric themes.

There is not one thing to dislike about this session. Lundgren is a polished player with a supple touch and disarmingly direct ideas about melody. His trio (with bassist Mattias Svensson and drummer Morten Lund) is nimble and tight. The uncluttered musicality of this record makes it an amiable companion, morning or night. The sound by engineer Boris Darley is much like the music: honest and balanced and clear.

But there is also nothing indispensable or truly memorable about this session.

Lundgren attempts to discover new meanings and feelings in simple folk themes by rendering them into the language of jazz while respectfully retaining their innocence. It takes a special player to break through to revelation through such a process, and Lundgren’s inflections are somewhat nondescript. There is also material that must be forced into a jazz context, like “Slangpolska Efter Bysskalle (Old Swedish Folkdance)” and “Brannvin Ar Mitt Enda Gull (Drinking Song),” and Lundgren’s exercises are merely clever.

It is illustrative to compare Lundgren to two other pianists from his part of the world. Fellow Swede Bobo Stenson is a vastly more challenging and therefore more interesting player. Norwegian Tord Gustavsen’s first album, Changing Places (ECM, 2003) is, like Landscapes, a work of subtle lyricism. But whereas Gustavsen gives us the intense, mysterious grace of art, Lundgren gives us the competence of craft.

Originally Published