In 1972, pianist Lars Sjösten was invited by STIM (the Swedish Performing Rights Society) to record an album under his name, comprised entirely of Swedish songs. The vinyl LP, released that year as Gutår
, encompasses the first ten tracks on Early
. The others, no doubt appended in part to increase the CD's playing time, were recorded two years earlier as part of another album, Svenskblandning
, with the exception of track eleven, a three-part suite entitled "De Röda Bilarna (The Red Cars), which was previously unissued. The entire CD consists of traditional Swedish songs or songs written by Swedes including Sjösten, the renowned baritone saxophonist Lars Gullin, and others.
On the material from Gutår, Sjösten's working trio (Sture Nordin, bass; Fredrik Norén, drums) is enlarged from time to time by invited guests including baritone saxophonist Gunnar Bergsten ("Röd Måne Over Farsta, "Gamlingens Dröm ), trumpeter Bertil Lövgren ("Dröm ) and vocalists Bjarne Nerem ("Gutår ) and the Dolls ("Gutår, "Drom, "Kavaljersvisa Från Vämland ). Sjösten performs alone on "Salig Farmor (My Poor Dead Grandmother). Tracks twelve through fifteen are taken from a session led by clarinetist Putte Wickman, on which Sjösten is the pianist. Norén is replaced by Nils-Erik Svensson and organist Bengt Lindqvist is added on track fifteen only.
One thing clear from the outset is that Sjösten is an excellent pianist, well-schooled in the bop tradition and still playing that way when these recordings were made. He has a light touch and cheerful demeanor reminiscent of Hank Jones, Barry Harris or Tommy Flanagan, and swings like Pete Jolly, Billy Taylor or Lou Levy. Bergsten, who solos extensively on "Farsta, had obviously listened to Gullin and taken careful notes. I wish he were present on more numbers. Wickman's endowment is a given, as he is the finest jazz clarinetist Sweden has produced.
"Gutår starts a bit slowly, but don't let that throw you. Keep listening and you'll hear more than seventy-nine minutes of splendid Swedish jazz played by some of the country's most accomplished musicians, not least among them their esteemed leader, Lars Sjösten.