Anyone who has been paying attention should be well aware of my stance toward the late Swedish saxophonist Lars Gullin. In reviewing Volume 8
of Dragon's loosely chronological multi-disc survey of Gullin's music, I wrote that he was "a giant among baritone saxophonists, a "truly original voice and "one of the greatest jazz musicians who ever lived. No ambiguity there, and Volume 9, covering the years 1954-56, explicitly reinforces that opinion.
The album encompasses eight songs recorded in June '54 and April '56 by Gullin's septet/octet, four numbers from April 25, 1956 on which he solos with the Gösta Theselius Orchestra, and two others recorded that same day by Gullin's quintet with trombonist Åke Persson sharing the front line. Gullin had his highs and lows (quite literally) in '54, as he was hospitalized from February to May for the recurring drug problems that would hasten his death in 1976 at the relatively young age of 48.
Later in May, however, Gullin was back in a studio to record his most well-known composition, "Danny's Dream (included in Volume 8 of this anthology), and again in June to lead a septet whose members included the superb clarinetist Putte Wickman and rising stars Persson, pianist Bengt Hallberg and Norwegian tenor saxophonist Bjarne Nerem.
If the four songs on the June '54 date, all of which were written by Gullin, seem oddly named, that is because they are the Latin derivation of flowers native to Sweden. In the Swedish language, all have a first syllable in common with that of Gullin's name: Gullviva, Gullrego, Gulsippa, Gulmåra. To make them more lucid and acceptable outside Sweden, Börje Ekberg at Metronome Records, who was then Gullin's personal manager, changed the names to the Latin versions. Gullin and the septet then set about proving that a flower by any other name swings as boldly.
Gullin wrote three of the four songs on the octet/septet date in June '56, the exception being the Burton Lane/Ralph Freed standard "How About You. Besides Gullin, the group's blue chip soloists include alto saxophonist Arne Domnérus, tenor Carl-Henrik Norin and pianist Rune Ofwerman, with a second baritone, Rune Falk, added on Gullin's "Fedja and "Ma. The Theselius session consists entirely of standards"Summertime, "Lover Come Back to Me, "Yesterdays, "A Foggy Day on each of which Gullin is breathtaking, as he is with the quintet on Gerry Mulligan's "So What and Irving Berlin's "Always.
The sound quality throughout is no better than ordinary, but who cares. This is Lars Gullin. If you've heard him before, you'll want to hear him again. If you haven't, you should. He wasand isincomparable.