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Pianist Ronny Johansson has been part of the jazz scene in Sweden for over 40 years, performing with great artists such as Art Farmer, Benny Bailey, Don Byas, Red Rodney and Warne Marsh. Johansson, who grew up in Uppsala, also played piano with on Eric Dolphy’s 1961 album The Complete Uppsala Concert. Since 1975, Johansson has been teaching piano at the State College of Music in Goteborg, Sweden while continuing to perform and record. Jubilee is an upbeat swinging piano trio recording that will be a delight to the listener.
Of the nine compositions on the recording, eight are originals by Johansson, with the Vernon Duke standard “I Can’t Get Started” the only exception. Johansson’s compositions are well crafted and each reflects a specific and unique mood. Of particular note, are the pieces written as tributes to, or as inspired by, different musicians. “Hommage a John Coltrane,” is testimony of Johansson still finding inspiration from Coltrane. “Kind of blues” is dedicated to Miles Davis and Johansson’s love of Davis’ quintet from the mid 1960’s. The tune begins, in tempo and spirit, much like the opening to “Freddie Freeloader” from Davis’ Kind of Blue album.
“Merci beaucoup” was written in memory of the late French jazz pianist Michel Petrucciani. The upbeat nature of “Merci beaucoup” makes it a great opener for the recording and a nice way to say thanks to the memory of Petrucciani. The last selection on the recording “Mori’s mood,” was written for Johansson’s bassist, Yashito Mori with whom he has shared a working relationship for over 20 years. As one could easily surmise, the piece is built around Mori’s vibrant bass sound and provides him space to demonstrate both his arco and pizzicato technique.
There is nothing here that is “cutting edge” on this clear cut, unadulterated, straight-ahead swinging jazz record—particularly “progressive” or new (other than Johansson’s compositions). The sound of the trio is reminiscent of the work of other great trio combinations. It is not however, an easy task (nor perhaps a necessarily important one) to pin down whom the Ronny Johansson trio most resembles. There are strong doses of the Bill Evans and Oscar Peterson trios present in the group’s sound. Johansson’s playing at times hints at George Shearing’s easygoing “polite” bop sound. Johansson, Mori and Karlsson have created is a sound that draws from the best of these artists to create something fresh and unique.
Track Listing: Merci beaucoup, Hymn, La petite valse, Cote d' Azur, I can't get started, Baddarblues, Hommage a John Coltrane, Kind of blues, Mori's mood
Personnel: Ronny Johansson, piano; Raymond Karlsson, drums; Yashuito Mori, bass
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.