Various ‘Svensk Jazzhistoria Vol. 11: Jazz Cosmopolit – Swedish Jazz History 1970-1979’ 4CD (Caprice) 5/5

Spanning an entire decade of jazz musicians in Sweden (though excluding resident overseas jazz artists such as Don Cherry whose, ‘Organic Music Society’ was re-issued by Caprice a few years back and is well worth investigating) and covering myriad styles from mainstream to hard bop, to fusion, taking on board free, world beats and Latin jazz, with big band and vocals not forgotten, this is a wide ranging anthology and one that any scholar of modern European jazz will wish to have in his/her collection. It includes musicians who came to prominence in the 1960s such as Alice Babs, Georg Riedl and Monica Zetterlund (the latter internationally thanks to her collaboration with Bill Evans), as well as a whole new generation of Swedish artists who soaked up the new developments in the US of the late 1960’s. What emerges is less of a copycat version of across the Atlantic, and more of a gradual clearly identifiably Swedish and Scandinavian sound, though there is no single voice for sure that dominates. A very brief illustration of the ECM label is made here, with the Bobo Stenson quartet featuring a then young Jan Garbarek on a memorable, ‘Witchi tai-to’, though there are ample examples of that label in its infancy elsewhere. The music divides up chronologically, with the four CD’s roughly covering between two and three years per disc. Various domestic labels are covered and, needless to say, these would be virtually impossible to find outside of the country and its near neighbours.

Helping to guide the non-Swedish jazz expert through this weighty tome is a beautifully illustrated and user friendly inner sleeve booklet of some one hundred and eighty eight pages, in both English and Swedish, though the latter naturally has pride of place and space. British jazz writer Stuart Nicholson has written a lengthy ten page introduction which sets the scene admirably, and thereafter there is an English language résumé of other sections in Swedish. Hitherto unheard of formations such as fusion band Oriental Wind are an interesting discovery, all the more so when one looks more closely at the band members and find out that Palle Danielson, Bobo Stenson and Turkish percussionist Okay Temiz are among the musicians. Free jazz band Mount Everest are another discovery and the innovations of Ornette Coleman did not go unnoticed with some. A major band leader to emerge during the 1970’s is alto saxophonist Bernt Rosengrans who, on this anthology, performs in both quartet and orchestral formats and is a fine musician and composer.

While there too many highlights to single out all individually, mention must nonetheless be made of the following formation who were influential in Sevda. On first appearance, they may look and even sound somewhat like a Swedish take on Pentangle. That is where is the parallel ends, however, for Sevda, were a band that fused world beats, especially Turkish, and folk-based jazz. The previous ten volumes go all the way back to the very origins of jazz at the very beginning of the twentieth century and especially noteworthy are volume 7, which is considered by Swedish jazz enthusiasts as a golden era between 1952 and 1955, coinciding incidentally, with the rise of Swedish film directors such as Ingmar Bergman, and volume ten during the 1960’s, chronicled in these columns previously. A praiseworthy latest installment of a series that is a comprehensive guide to jazz in Sweden.

Tim Stenhouse