Jan Lundgren – pianist

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Jan Lundgren & Georg Riedel

“Every form of vocal and instrumental music we possess has developed out of folk song or dance … folk music represents the culture of the countryside and art music the culture of the city”. This is the view stated in the authoritative Oxford Companion To Music which also points out that lvar Hallstrom (1826-1901 ), the Swedish composer, based many of his operas and operettas “on Swedish subject-matter and used folk tunes as a principle”.

Jazz musicians from the Scandinavian countries have turned to their musical heritage on many occasions during the last half century (and probably earlier), giving themselves fresh inspiration and new platforms for their imaginative writing and instrumental improvisation. It was Quincy Jones, during a visit to Sweden in the summer of 1960 (he was leading the big band he had assembled originally to play in the stage show “Free And Easy”) who had the idea of recording a complete album of works based on Swedish folk songs. The idea never came to fruition but two years later trumpeter/arranger Bengt-Arne Wallin assembled a most impressive orchestra to record “Old Folklore In Swedish Modern” for the Dux label.

It will be seen there are few, if any, musicians better qualified to approach the present proiect than Georg and Jan. The unique atmosphere of Scandinavian music runs like an unbroken thread throughout the enclosed compact disc even during the four spontaneous free improvisations, namely Dis (meaning “haze”), Solen skiner (“The Sun Is Shining”), Bad Weather and Dimman Lattar (“The Fog Is Lifting”).

The opening Lockrop finds Riedel at his best not only as a superlative bass player but also as a composer. The title may be translated as “calling in the cattle”, although it can also mean different kind of call, such as the one used when trying to attract someone’s attention. The folk feeling is strong here in this deceptively simple statement. The title of a tune by the late Red Mitchell sums this up perfectly, “Simple Isn’t Easy”. George has written a lot of music for the film and television versions of author Astrid Lindgren’s books and Ida’s Sommarvisa comes originally from the popular TV series about “Emil i Lonneberga”. Emil’s pranks drive his father to distraction and it is his younger sister Ida who sings this beautiful summer song. Lille Katt is another tune from “Emil i Lonneberga” and is sung in the television version by Ida. As the title implies, it is about her little cat.

Arne Domnerus has been a most important musical figure in Riedel’s life and in honour of this outstanding soloist and leader Georg has composed Arne, a fitting tribute with its graceful melody. By contrast Ramsa is a busy tune which is intended to convey long strings of words produced by children, and that is what Ramsa means. Four of the pieces here were written by Jan and one of them, Looking Back, is making its second appearance on a Lundgren record. (It first appeared on Jan’s “Bird Of Passage” CD recorded in November 1995 for Four Leaf Clover Records and containing a fine tenor solo from America’s Rich Perry). The chordal introduction ushers in a song in introspective mood which contains a Monk-like twist near the end. Stenhuggarens Visa translates as “Song Of The Stone Mason” and the repetitive figure brings to mind the constant use of hammer and chisel on stone.

Both M.Z. and Too Soon are Jan’s tributes to friends he has worked with in the past. The first is dedicated to the late Monica Zetterlund, one of Sweden’s best known jazz singers. It is played in 3/4; note Jan’s perfect gradation of touch and Georg’s strong, striding bass line. Too Soon is for Gunnar “Siljabloo” Nilsson, another in the long line of outstanding Swedish clarinettists, a line which has included Ake Hasselgard, Ove Lind, Putte Wickman and Arne Domnerus. “Siljabloo” played in the best company with such musicians as Domnerus, Jan Allan, Ake Persson and Bjarne Nerem.

The four spontaneous improvisations are the joint work of the two men and it is worth drawing attention to the Lennie Tristano-like figurations in the middle and upper registers of the piano here. Jan arranged Och Jungfrun Gick At Killan, the only actual traditional tune in the programme. The title means “And the virgin went to the well” and Georg opens the piece before the piano joins in. The opening chorus remains close to the original melody then jazz elements begin to emerge in Jan’s work and by the third chorus the folk song has been brought up to the 21 st. Century. This is a masterly performance by both players who show just how much inspiration may be obtained from a comparatively simple 16 bar chorus.

This duet recording by two of jazz’s finest musicians is a tribute to all concerned including Jan Erik Kongshaug and Peer Espen Ursfjord who ensured the perfect balance and clarity of the finished recording. The session took place at the new Rainbow Studio which is even more impressive than the original one. I t contains a brand new concert Steinway and, as Jan said after the session, “this surely must be one of the top studios in the world, not just because of the equipment but also because of the expertise shown by the people who work there”.

(Queensland 2005)

PRODUCED BY: Bj0rn Petersen
RECORDED: RainbowStudio as, Oslo Norway September 17 & 18 2005
RECORDING ENGINEERS: Jan Erik Kongshaug and Peer Espen Ursfjord
COVER ART AND DESIGN: Cecilia Tengblad
PHOTOS: Anders Valde
LINER NOTES: Alun Morgan
Special thanks to Josefine, Rene Hess, the Lundgren, Riedel and Tengblad families.
Very special thanks to Dag and Eva Landvik for great support.