Jan Johannson and Rune Gustafsson ‘When the sun comes out’ 2CD (El/Cherry Red) 5/5

johannson-gustafssonSwedish jazz pianist Jan Johansson delivered one of the greatest ever European jazz in ‘Jazz På Svenska’ (Jazz in Swedish) and thankfully this was re-issued to great acclaim a few years ago. However, relatively few of his earlier albums have resurfaced in CD format and therefore it is a major discovery to find a double CD set that neatly brings together several separate recordings, the majority featuring long-time bassist Georg Riedel and guitarist Rune Gustafsson. The first CD conveniently focuses the listener’s attention on a series of trio recordings that date between 1956 and 1962 and what comes across here is the extent to which both Johansson in particular and Swedish jazz musicians of this era more generally were exposed to the Great American Songbook and this is consequently reflected in the choice of material to cover. A dignified and restrained version of ‘The nearness of you’ contrasts with a swinging blues-infused reading of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘Younger than springtime’, but in truth these numbers were merely the prelude to a dozen or so self-penned compositions that stand the test of time extremely well. Among these pride of place goes to the at once adventurous and explorative ‘Styv Kuling’ (Gale Force Blues) while continuing on the weather theme a floating atmosphere is created on ‘Spridda Skurart’ (Scattered Showers) on which the bass player, Gunnar Johnsson, creates a tuba-like sound. The second CD diverts attention away from Johannson the lead pianist and onto guitarist Gustafsson whose solo album ‘Young Guitar. The artistry of Rene Gustafsson and Jan Johansson’ is reproduced in its entirety with the latter musician very much playing a supportive role throughout. What is interesting about Gustafsson is that he was a gifted composer and during the 1970s wrote the music for various Swedish films. However, the music here dates from 1961 and there are wonderful additional collaborations with major American jazz exiles of the calibre of Stan Getz, Oscar Pettiford and Jimmy Woode that slightly pre-date the album by a year or two and, moreover, they are a testimony to the number of jazz musicians from the United States who would come across the Atlantic, perform in Scandinavia and in several cases make this part of northern Europe their home for several years, tenorist Dexter Gordon being one notable case. El/Cherry Red are to be commended for assembling this set and the excellent inner sleeve notes leave nothing to chance in either formation details, or an insightful explanation of how Johansson’s career evolved. First rate packaging makes for an unbeatable re-issue and one of the year’s very best.

Tim Stenhouse