's smoothly swinging clarinet; the other, Slim Gaillard's crazed, frenetic vocals. When the battle grew too intense and he could stand it no longer, Nilson took to drink.
Born in 1925 in the desolate far north of Sweden, young Gunnar fell in love with Shaw's playing on an old 78 rpm record and taught himself clarinet. He never did manage to sound like Shaw. His playing was far more muscular and flamboyant... a style very much his own.
In the 1940s Nilson moved to the capital, Stockholm, where he established himself on the burgeoning local jazz scene. One day, he heard Slim Gaillard and started singing in a similar style. In 1953 one of his scat compositions, "Siljabloo," became a nationwide hit. His vocals rapidly overshadowed his considerable abilities as a musician.
This magnificent three-CD box set is a fitting tribute to a remarkable man. His career spanned five decades, give or take the years of alcohol abuse in the rock-dominated 1960s. The collection includes hitherto unissued live recordings from Nilson's heyday, his hit "Siljabloo," Slim Gaillard's "Laughing In Rhythm," and Nilson's version of the number Artie Shaw made his own, "Begin The Beguine."
It all kicks off in fine style, with a 1957 band sponsored by the Stockholm evening newspaper Expressen that includes some of the greatest names in Swedish jazz, playing Gershwin's "Summertime." Nilson handles the vocal with aplomb, giving the lie to those who claimed he took to scat only because of his poor English.
The rest of the tracks on the first disk feature him with diverse bands, including a quintet co-led by himself and fellow clarinetist Poul Hindberg.
The live numbers on Disk 2 were recorded at two concerts in Helsinki in 1954 and '55. Nilson's playing was listened to reverently by the jazz-starved Finns before being accorded rapturous applause.
Perhaps as a result, the third disk- a pretty ghastly mishmash of pop songs recorded to keep body and soul together- includes two Finnish folk songs (rendered in an atrocious accent).
Way after all these recordings were made, in the 1970s, Gunnar Nilson got off the booze and made a comeback. He died of a heart attack in 1989 on his way to a gig. Though, as Jan Olsson so eloquently points out in his sleeve note, people like Gunnar "Siljabloo" Nilson never truly die.
Track Listing: CD1: Summertime; I Can’t Give You Anything But Love; Night And Day;
It’s The Talk Of The Town; Ko-Ko-Ko-Mo I Love You So; Aa-Chal-Ja-Loo-
Blaa; Siljabloo; Oh-Shoo-Be-Doo-Be; Sonny Boy; Crazy Man Crazy; Rock
Around The Clock; Laughing In Rhythm; Easy To Love; Clarinet Walk;
Doin’ The New Lowdown; Love Me Or Leave Me; Destination Mood; The Lady
From 29 Palms; Always; Begin The Beguine.
CD2: Stormy Weather; You’re Driving Me Crazy; Short Stop; All The
Things You Are; Back Bay Shuffle; The Land Of Ob-La-Dee; Honeysuckle
Rose; Yesterdays; Indiana; One O’Clock Jump.
CD3: The Rock And Roll Waltz; Mambo Bacan; Apprendre Cha-Cha-Cha;
Heat Wave; Har Någon Sett Min Brud (Five Foot Two, Eyes Of Blue);
Farfar Dansar Mambo; Jag Tigger Och Ber Dig (You’re Driving Me Crazy),
Äntligen; Kyss Kyss Kyss; Anna Du Kan Väl Stanna; Ol’ Kaunis Kesäilta;
Ylistys; Premier Rendezvous; A Kiss To Build A Dream On;
Personnel: CD1#1: Expressen’s Elite Orchestra (Bengt-ArneWallin: trumpet;
Åke Persson: trombone; Putte Wickman: clarinet; Arne
Domnérus: alto sax; Hacke Björksten: tenor sax; Lars Gullin:
baritone sax; Bengt Hallberg: piano; Rune Gustafsson: guitar; Simon
Brehm: bass; Nils-Bertil Dahlander: drums; Gunnar Nilson: vocals).
CD1#2-10: Gunnar Nilson with Carl Henrik Norin’s Orchestra. CD1#11-12:
Arne Domnérus Orchestra; CD1#13-16: Poul Hindberg/Gunnar Nilson
Quintet. CD1#17-18: Sören Christensen Embassy Club Sextet. CD1#19-20:
Göte Williamsson Sextet.
CD2#1-2: Gunnar Nilson: reeds, vocals; Teuvo Suojärvi: piano;
Herbert Katz: guitar; Erik Lindström: bass; Willie Katz: drums.
CD2#3-10: Carl-Henrik Norin’s Orchestra.
CD3#1-5: Gunnar Nilson with Malte Johnsson’s Orchestra. CD3#6-7:
Nilson with Thore Ehrling’s Orchestra. CD3#8-9: Gunnar Nilson with
Carlberg’s Ensemble. CD3#10: Gunnar Nilson with Kenneth Fagerlund’s
Orchestra. CD3#11-12: Gunnar Nilson Quartet. CD3#13-14: Sören
Embassy Club Sextet. CD3#15: Carl-Henrik Norin’s Orchestra.