Until recently I had no idea that the great Swedish baritone saxophonist Lars Gullin had recorded with any big bands, as I’d heard him only with smaller groups, usually a quartet or quintet. Then came Swedish Jazz 1952–55: The Golden Years
(Caprice), on which Gullin performs with the Lulle Ellboj Orchestra, and now In Germany 1955, 1956 and 1959, vol. 2,
wherein he appears with the Erwin Lehn and Kurt Edelhagen Orchestras. Perhaps vol. 1 includes more of the same. Whatever the framework, Gullin remains the consummate master, sounding always cool, calm and self–assured in spite of the “personal problems” that plagued so many Jazz musicians of his era and contributed to his death at age forty–eight in 1976. By the mid– to late–’50s, when these recordings were made, Gullin was a star performer in Sweden and the first European musician to win an American magazine’s Jazz poll ( Down Beat
’s New Star award in ’54), even though he never visited the U.S. He had, however, enhanced his reputation while playing alongside such celebrated Americans as Clifford Brown, Zoot Sims, Chet Baker, Stan Getz, James Moody and “soul brother” Lee Konitz, his companion here on half a dozen selections. Gullin apparently had a fondness for “Lover Man,” as that tune is repeated no less than four times including two versions (from ’55 and ’56) with Lehn’s orchestra. The others, recorded three days apart in Hamburg and Freiburg, feature Gullin, Konitz, tenor saxophonist Hans Koller, pianist Roland Kovac, bassist Johnny Fischer and drummer Rudi Schring. Konitz appears with Lehn’s orchestra on “Together in Stuttgart” (a.k.a. “All the Things You Are”) as well as on “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You” and two versions of Gullin’s “Ablution” (the second on baritone!), quintet dates recorded in January ’56. Lars also wrote “Oh That Hamburg” and “Late Summer,” performed by the same sextet as above but with baritone Willi Sanner replacing Konitz. With Edelhagen’s orchestra (in ’59), Gullin is featured on Gösta Theselius’ arrangements of the standards “Yesterdays” and “Lover Come Back to Me.” Gullin’s solos can best be described as laid–back or mellow; like Konitz (his main influence) he loves to lag behind the beat but always swings. And like any Jazz soloist he has his special bag of licks (don’t tell me there are those who seldom if ever repeat themselves; that’s impossible) but as is true of all great ad–libbers his artistry is such that one almost looks forward to hearing them again. Konitz, as usual every inch his own man, makes the package even more inviting. They’re quite simply a wonderful team, burning on “Stuttgart,” “Sentimental” and “Ablution” (which seems also to be based on “All the Things You Are”) and wresting every nuance of color and emotion from “Lover Man.” Most tracks are passable but the last one, even though recorded in a studio, begins in mid–note and includes a rather conspicuous edit and pause before Gullin’s lead solo. Konitz, on baritone, sounds so much like Lars that one must stay alert to separate one from the other, especially when they’re trading fours. The album is the second in a series of ten envisioned in an enterprise entitled “Save Lars Gullin’s Music,” and we are indebted to music researcher Olle Lind for releasing these rare recordings, which began life as reel–to–reel mono tapes. Music this worthwhile should never be lost or forgotten.
Contact: Anagram, Tulegatan 33, S–113 53 Stockholm, Sweden. www.anagrammusic.com