Pianist Lars Jansson recently cleared out the music room of his home in Gothenburg, on Sweden's west coast, and in the process, found some old songs he'd written but forgotten. Inspired by Marcel Proust's epic novel, A la recherche du temps perdu
, he put them together with some new ones to create an album that sheds new and often surprising light on the familiar territory of piano jazz.
Jansson is a Zen Buddhist, which accounts for most of the titles of his 14 originals. Unlike Proust, they are unpretentious and accessible but, at the same time, thoughtful, meditative, and deserving of an audience way beyond the narrow confines of Scandinavia.
The opening "There Is A Butterfly In My Room" is in memory of a girl who was a friend of Jansson's daughter and who died at the age of 13. The pianist says: "After her death I came across an interview with Elisabeth Kubler Ross who said, 'Living is like being caught in a pupa and dying is getting wings and becoming a butterfly.' Just then a butterfly came flying into my room. It flew around for a while, then sat on my left shoulder, showed its beautiful wings and then flew out through the open window."
The gently rolling theme evolves into the story, with treble runs reflecting both the insect's flight and the girl's fleeting life. As they do throughout, bassist Christian Spering and drummer Anders Kjellberg provide fine, subtle support.
There are only two specifically Swedish numbers"Siljan Waltz," evoking a beautiful lake in the wooded province of Dalarna, by the shores of which "Midsummer" is traditionally celebrated each year.
The 12-tone "One Hand Clapping," is based on a famous Zen koan, an insoluble riddle aimed at provoking enlightenment, and climaxes with one delicate cymbal shot (the answer?), while "Fisherman" marks a return to the so-called real world: a happy-go-lucky number dedicated to a young guitarist who is friends with Jansson's son.
"God's Delays Are Not God's Denials" introduces a deity not usually present in Zen, stressing the need for patience in life, while "Where Is The Blues 4" delves into abstract territory. But appropriately, bearing in mind the Zen context, the best comes last with "Hilda," a lilting solo ballad, dedicated to Jansson's granddaughter.
The album achieves a Proustian ideal: "The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes."
There Is A Butterfly In My Room, At-one-ment; Midsummer; Siljan Waltz; In
Search Of Lost Time; Simple Song Simple Life; One Hand Clapping;
Fisherman; God's Delays Are Not God's Denials; A Rare Italian Bird;
Where Is The Blues 4; Gods Who Shit; New Room; Hilda.
Lars Jansson: piano; Christian Spering: bass; Anders Kjellberg: drums.