Sweden is famous for its jazz. Most recently the home grown Esbjorn Svensson Trio has become a worldwide success. Yet the best selling jazz record in Sweden was made by an artist virtually unknown outside Scandinavia, and whose records are very difficult to get hold of.
The artist is pianist Jan Johansson (photo above). The recording is Jazz på svenska (Jazz in Swedish), and it has sold more than a quarter of a million copies. Johansson was born in 1931, and met saxophonist Stan Getz while at university. He abandoned his studies to play jazz fulltime, and worked with many American jazz greats, becoming the first European ever to be invited to join "Jazz at the Philharmonic."
The years 1961 to 1968 produced a string of classic albums. These included Jazz på svenska and Jazz på Ryska (Jazz in Russia) which are available together on a single CD titled Folkvisor. Jazz in Sweden comprises variations on sixteen Swedish folk songs with George Riedel playing bass. Also worth exploring is Musik genom Fyra Sekler (Music from the Past Centuries) which is another exploration of traditional Swedish melodies using larger forces. There were also two excellent trio sets, 8 Bittar and Innertrio, which again have been issued as a single CD.
In November 1968 Jan Johansson was killed in a car crash on his way to a church concert in a church concert in Jönköping, Sweden. He was just 37.
For reasons which are very difficult to understand Jan Johansson has remained relatively unknown outside Sweden. His son, Anders Johansson, runs Heptagon Records which does an invaluable job of keeping his recordings available. But they are still surprisingly difficult to find. I bought mine from the oddly named, but very efficient CD Baby who are based in Portland, Oregon.
Here to give you a taste of what the rest of the world has been missing are eight minutes of Jan Johansson courtesy of the Heptagon Records web site:
Folkvisor (Two samples 2' 08" & 1' 41"): - -
Musik genom Fyra Sekler (3' o"): -
8 Bittar and Innertrio (1' 52"): -
If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to Fairytales - an album beyond words