Ake Johansson: Trio 77 (2003)
Trio 77 is a CD release of a 1977 recording made for Swedish Radio by pianist Ake Johansson. Johansson, who emerged on the Swedish jazz scene while barely out of his teens in the late 1950's, has performed and recorded with many great jazz artists, having held the distinction of being the accompanist for many American players when they visited Sweden. Johansson also has recorded on the Dragon label with Chet Baker and Toots Thielemans. Trio 77 presents a retrospective of Johansson and his sidemen performing four originals and four standards of the jazz repertoire.
'Taxi 424,' an up-tempo blues-based tune, opens and gets the mood moving and swinging. Johansson's 'punching' left hand and the twisting and turning bebop lines from his right certainly are reminiscent of the style of Bud Powell. In addition to keeping very precise time, bassist Torbjorn Hultcrantz also contributes a rousing solo and drummer Leif Wennerstrom keeps the trio's feel driving throughout.
The Latin-influenced 'Tjejen I Aspen' follows, and again Johansson demonstrates some excellent melodic construction and a consistent flow of ideas in improvisation. A more deeply pensive side is revealed with the lovely solo piano ballad 'A Tribute to Bud.' The angularity of Johansson's melodic construction hints at influences of Thelonious Monk, and perhaps Johansson is also paying tribute to Bud Powell by also recognizing his mentor. Another up-tempo Johansson original, 'Besvikelse,' brings to mind performances by the classic Bill Evans trio. The trio seems to seamlessly blend and blur any specific hierarchy of instrumental roles.
Billy Strayhorn's exquisite ballad 'Lotus Blossom,' although only a brief 1'47' long, says a lot with Johansson's sensitive interpretation. Cole Porter's 'Every Time We Say Goodbye' evokes heart wrenching reflection of longing; again with the combo working together in a very refined manner complimenting each other's playing. For this listener, Miles Davis' composition 'Solar,' is strongly associated with the performance by Bill Evans Trio on the 1961 album Sunday at the Village Vanguard. The version on Trio 77 has Johansson and his sidemen interpreting Davis' composition at much more up tempo pace than Evans did in 1961; however Johansson, Hultcrantz, and Wennerstrom certainly evoke a sound similar to that created by Evans, LaFaro and Motian some sixteen years earlier.
The recording concludes with a blistering version of the bebop standard 'Just Friends.' What is most outstanding on this cut is the incredible interaction between Johansson and Hultcrantz as they weave intricate contrapuntal lines in and around each other and craft a complex improvisational fabric.
Trio 77 captures a wonderful performance by three jazz musicians. For this listener, the recording also opened a new window of inquisitiveness and investigation into 'ke Johansson and Swedish jazz in general. It is exceedingly gratifying to hear evidence that America's only original art form has been translating so well for so long.
Track Listing: Taxi 424, Tjejen I Aspen, A Tribute to Bud, Besvikelse, Lotus Blossom, Every Time We Say Goodbye, Solar, Just Friends
Personnel: Ake Johansson, piano; Torbjorn Hultcrantz, bass; Leif Wennerstrom, drums