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Anders Jormin: Touching the Heart and Spirit

John Kelman By

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Swedish bassist, compser, bandleader and educator Anders Jormin may be best known to North American audiences as a member of Charles Lloyd's and Tomasz Stanko's mid-'90s ECM label quartets along with pianist Bobo Stenson. He's also been a longstanding participant in Stenson's own trio, with three sublime recordings released on ECM since '96 including the subtle yet substantive double-disk set, Serenity. But the truth of the matter is that Jormin has been forging his own career since the mid-'80s, first with a series of recordings for the always-quality but not always easy-to-obtain Swedish Dragon label, and more recently with two ECM recordings including the just-released song cycle In winds, in light , that brings a new meaning to the term "sacred music." Jormin's projects may be stylistically difficult to pigeonhole, but throughout his career a constant has been his commitment to finding new ways to make the music and his instrument sing. And it is just that diverse aesthetic that makes every new release from Jormin both a surprise and a confirmation.

Early Days

"I do come from a musical family in the sense that my father was a professional jazz musician before I was born," says Jormin, "although by the time I was born he had quit the professional musician life to get a more ordinary job in order to support the family. So I learned the basic rules of standard jazz language in early childhood, and so did my brother Christian, who is five years younger than me. We played a lot of jazz music at home when I was young, so I had a good foundation. Then I did more traditional training at music school, classical music first on piano and later on the double-bass; I finally ended up studying at the conservatory and then moving to Gotenberg, where I studied music at the university level for a number of years."

But while Jormin was deeply involved with the classical tradition, his own aesthetic was already being formed through exposure not only to jazz, but to the Swedish folk tradition. And at an early age Jormin was already looking at ways to combine these three diverse influences into a more personal approach. "I don't think it was a very conscious goal in the beginning," Jormin explains, "but it has been very natural for me. As a Scandinavian musician studying music, I studied classical music and I studied jazz music, which I already knew a lot about from my upbringing with my father. But we also have a folk music tradition that is more and more alive in Sweden. It was, of course, very strong a hundred years ago, fifty years ago, but then almost completely disappeared, and now it's coming back. There were good players who inspired me as a young musician, for example a well-known musician in Sweden named Jon Johansson, who really dug deep into the folk music tradition while still being definitely a jazz player So that and classical music always interested me. I always had those three things going on in my head and played them in different ways at different times. I take all my inspirations and influences into some kind of melting pot which is inside my heart, and what comes out is, I hope, my personality."

When asked who he would cite as influences from a jazz perspective, Jormin names few artists. "As a very young player I listened a lot to Miles and Coltrane," Jormin says, "and, of course, I'm not the only one. But I still say to students when they ask a question like this, 'John Coltrane is my house god,' for the energy and strength and power in his music. As a young musician/bassist I was quite fascinated by both Charlie Haden and Gary Peacock—the early Gary Peacock, the Albert Ayler free music playing Gary Peacock, although they were quite different as musicians. Of the two I must say that Charlie Haden was a bigger influence for me in the beginning. Not for the way he played his bass, as I realize that they way I play bass has very little to do with him, but for the strength and power in the music he created. I was also very lucky to play with Joe Henderson quite early on in my career, and that was a big inspiration, and I still find him as an underestimated genius on tenor saxophone."

Emerging on the Swedish Scene

Emerging onto the Swedish scene in the late '70s and early '80s, Jormin had the opportunity for exposure to a wide variety of players in Gotenberg, a city where the emphasis seemed more on the cultivation of creative music rather than event-based music. "There was quite a happening music scene in the late '70s and early '80s," explains Jormin, "and I was fortunate to move to Gotenberg, the second largest city in Sweden, which had quite a living musical situation with lots of different music and musicians happening. At that time musicians were moving from different parts of Sweden to either Stockholm or Gotenberg. But looking back you can definitely see that, while Stockholm tended to be a more traditional jazz centre—big band music, entertainment music, etc.—Gotenberg became more concert music, the improvised music being played in concerts rather than behind a star, sitting in a big band. So the scenes were different and, looking back, I am happy that I decided to go to Gotenberg rather than Stockholm as a young player because for me that scene was much more interesting and challenging.

"The local jazz club," continues Jormin, "which is a very good and quite famous one called Nefertiti, still did the kind of concerts where an American star—Dexter Gordon or Horace Parlan for example—would travel up here and play with local rhythm sections. So I was fortunate to do that kind of gig for a couple of years; had I been a couple of years younger I would have missed that whole way of doing jazz music -the star coming and playing with the local guys which was, of course, a very interesting education for me. That, combined with studying in school, was very, very good experience for me."

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