Volume 9 in Caprice Records’ chronological survey of Swedish jazz offers a fascinating look backward at the eventful years 1960-64 and, as always, the four-disc set is not only brimming with wonderful music but is as generously timed as one could possibly want with none of the discs playing for less than 77 minutes. Sound quality is as respectable as Caprice could manage (some performances were recorded live, others in a studio) and there is the usual informative 100-page booklet (alas, in Swedish, as is the more concise summary of groups and personnel). The over-all title, Brand New! is taken from Track 2 on Disc 1, the second of two delightful themes by Nils Lindberg’s Swedish Jazz Group that include brief but convincing solos by one of that country’s most renowned Jazz artists, baritone saxophonist Lars Gullin. Lars reappears on the same disc as leader of his octet (“Aesthetic Lady”); on Disc 3, again with Lindberg (“Symfoni No. 1, Concerto 63”), and on Disc 4 as leader of a sixteen-piece ensemble with strings (“Portrait of My Pals”).
Gullin’s is not the only well-known name. Others fronting splendid groups of various sizes include saxophonists Arne Domnérus, Bernt Rosengren, Börge Fredriksson, Carl-Henrik Norin, Nisse Sandström, Bosse Wärmell and Bengt Nordström; trumpeters Rolf Ericson, Bengt-Arne Wallin, Bertil Lövgren and Jan Allan; clarinetists Putte Wickman and Gunnar Nilson; trombonists Eje Thelin, Lars Lystedt and Kurt Järnberg; pianists Jan Johansson, Bengt Hallberg, Rune Öfwerman, Staffan Abeleen, Åke Johansson, Knud Jörgensen, Lars Sjösten and Gugge Hedrenius; bassists Georg Riedel and Kurt Lindgren, guitarist Rune Gustafsson and vibraphonist Lars Erstrand. Big bands represented include the Sunsiders (who submit a swinging version of Dizzy’s “Groovin’ High”) and others led by Norin, Wallin, Hedrenius, Domnérus, Jojjen Björklund and Harry Arnold.
While much of the music is straight-ahead and as contemporary as the time in which it was recorded, Disc 3, as is the custom, sets aside room for a number of trad Jazz groups including the Imperial Band, Cave Stompers, Storyville Creepers and Jazz Doctors along with Björklund‘s swing-based ensemble. The rest of the disc is given over to more modern statements by Jan Johansson, Knud Jörgensen, Sjösten, Thelin, Lindberg, Lystedt, Hedrenius, Arnold’s orchestra and Bengt “Frippe” Nordstöm’s quintet (the last two taking aim at the avant-garde). Rosengren ventures into similar territory on Disc 4 (Miles Davis’ “The Theme”). There is one vocal by Swedish diva Alice Babs (“I Didn’t Know About You,” Disc 2), two by Monica Zetterlund (“My Blue Heaven,” “Lucky to Be Me,“ Disc 4) and one by the vocal group Gals and Pals (Ellington’s “Satin Doll,” sung in Swedish, Disc 4).
Make no mistake, Sweden had (and still has) a large number of world-class players, which not only gives Caprice ample material with which to work but provides an absorbing glance at the early careers of such durable luminaries as Domnérus, Rosengren, Lindberg, Ericson, Allan, Wickman, Thelin, Hallberg, Gustafsson and others. Among the “sidemen” on these dates are trumpeters Lars Färnlöf, Gösta Nilsson, Nat Pavone and Bosse Broberg; saxophonists Rolf Blomquist, Rune Falk, Christer Boustedt, Rolf Billberg, Bjarne Nerem, Rolf Bäckman and Lennart Åberg; drummers Egil Johansen, Rune Carlsson, Sture Kallin, Bert Dahlander and Fredrik Norén; pianists Gunnar Svensson and Bo Carlsson, trombonist Kenny Rupp and bassist Sture Nordin. Not a shabby back-up crew by any measure.
Admirable they are, these snippets of Swedish jazz from four decades ago presumably don’t have a broad fan base here in the States, which is regrettable, as the music therein as about as rewarding as any played during the period in question, either here or there. But there is at least one enthusiast on this side of the pond who looks forward eagerly to hearing each new volume in the series—so keep ‘em coming, Caprice!