Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Remember remember in early November


My 2005 post about the late and very much lamented Radka Toneff (above) has been attracting a lot of readers recently. Interest in the Norwegian jazz singer, who died in 1982 aged just 30, has been fuelled by a new biography in Norwegian Radka Toneff. Hennes korte liv og store stemme and by a new CD compilation titled Butterfly. Her 1981 album Fairytales is one of the most beautiful things ever committed to disc by any artist, and in that comparison I happily include jazz, rock, folk and classical artists. Why this album is not generally available totally escapes me. But don't let the cost put you off, the Japanese release is worth every penny (cent?). You can listen for yourself here; but be prepared for the credit card hit, it doesn't take more than a few bars to become addicted.


The path that took me to Radka Toneff was the appearance two years ago of Esbjörn Svensson (above) on Michael Berkeley's Private Passions radio programme. Now Esbjörn Svensson himself has gone, taken from us in a scuba-diving accident in June aged just 44. His death was probably the music tragedy of 2008 and yet it attracted limited coverage outside the jazz press. We were privileged to see him live with with EST in Norwich in May 2003. Esbjörn Svensson's music is a land with no frontiers where jazz, rock and classical merged and flourish. Why are we so obsessed with classical music's rocky and barren frontier with rock music and so neglectful of the lush and fertile territory it currently shares with jazz? The flowering didn't end with Rhapsody in Blue. Did you know, for instance, that György Ligeti's Etudes were influenced by a great American jazz pianist?


Esbjörn Svensson was of course Swedish. On Sunday we mark the fortieth anniversary of the death of another great Swedish jazz pianist who is seen in the photo above. On November 9, 1968 Jan Johansson died, aged 37, when his car hit an airport bus while he was on his way to a concert in a church in Jönköping, Sweden. I know that my 2005 post Sweden's best kept secret has introduced Jan Johansson's music to thousands, and also formed the basis of his Wikipedia entry. There are audio samples on my earlier post. Like Radka Toneff's albums those of Jan Johansson are not widely available, but you will be well rewarded for the effort of finding them. I have spent a lot of time recently listening to his Grammy winning Musik genom Fyra Sekler med (Music from past centuries) which mixes jazz, early music (with period instruments) and folk. It is a very early example of exactly what Philip Glass meant when he said world music is the new classical. To misquote the nursery rhyme which also provided my headline:

I see no reason why Radka Toneff, Esbjörn Svensson and Jan Johansson
Should ever be forgot...
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4 comments:

Pliable said...

With thanks to a regular reader for this Bill Evans link -

http://www.bagatellen.com/?p=1124

Maria Ljungdahl said...

I bought "Fairytales" on vinyl when it was new, but decided to get the cd also a year ago. It's available from the cd shop CDON for just 69 SEK. That's not much (10 dollars, maybe?). You don't need to buy the Japanese edition for almost 37 dollars, I believe. http://cdon.se/musik/toneff_radka/fairytales-37113

Maria Ljungdahl said...

There's a CDON page for EU people, too, which maybe is easier to understand than the Swedish one I linked to.

http://cdon.eu/music/toneff_radka/fairytales-37113

k.hobday said...

The CD reissue of Fairytales is available from one of the UKs best independent distributors - Discovery Records - for a reasonable £11.99. http://www.discovery-records.com/product-ST48473/TONEFF-RADKA/Fairytales.htm. Any good record shop should be able to supply it within a few days.