Stunt 10 2016 US4 - My Scandinavian Blues ++ Oscar Pettiford and Jan Johansson in Denmark
US4 - MY SCANDINAVIAN BLUES A TRIBUTE TO HORACE PARLAN
Stunt Records / STUCD 16012 / New Arts International 663993160122
VÖ. Deutschland: 7. Oktober 2016
When the American pianist Horace Parlan (b.1931) came to Denmark in the early 1970’s, he arrived in an open-minded country. Not only the music was scene unreserved and inviting, the atmosphere of the Danish society was respectful and welcoming to newcomers. Justice and stability were prominent values, and foreigners experienced open doors.
This was contrasted by the USA that Horace Parlan had left. The rat race in New York was grueling. Racial discrimination was nothing a black musician would miss.
Throughout the approximately forty years Horace Parlan has spent in Denmark, one can still wonder how this smiling, sweet man with the almost Buddhist patience and humor, can be the hard-swinging pianist who appeared on Blue Note records from the ‘60s, and who energized the first, legendary Charles Mingus band in 1957. His calm, reflective manner and his special aura attract people. Everyone flocked around him – Clark Terry, Yusef Lateef, Ernie Wilkins, Dexter Gordon, Ed Thigpen, Kenny Drew – every jazz musician, local or from “over there”.
Horace Parlan’s story is a fairy tale. Against all odds, he overcame a polio disability that had paralyzed his whole right side - including the fingers of his right hand - by training with various piano teachers from the age of eight. When his interest for jazz awakened after practicing classical etudes, he invented his own original technique, which made his playing rhythmically and harmonically unique.
Horace Parlan’s story describes a trip that has taken him from Pittsburgh to the hottest jazz circles in New York to a small house in the Danish countryside surrounded by cackling hens and purring cats, and finally to a friendly retirement home where the personnel spoil the nearly blind and paralyzed 85-year old.
In Denmark, Parlan found a safe and comfortable haven with work and ample opportunity to live out his musical dreams. But most importantly, Horace’s Scandinavian fairy tale gave him Norma. The love of his life, with whom he experienced good times in Copenhagen filled with success, lots of jazz, and a wealth of international musicians. And together he and Norma retreated from city life to enjoy a quieter life in the country.
This project is evidence of the admiration and warmth surrounding Parlan. The repertoire consists of his original compositions from as far back as 1960 to 1999, and performed by three of Denmark’s finest musicians and one of Parlan’s fellow Americans – and on two tracks augmented by Denmark’s finest female vocalist Sinne Eeg, who is rapidly becoming an international star in her own name. Each of them were specifically chosen by Horace Parlan for this project.
Europe’s great tenor saxman Tomas Franck (b. 1958) is in a groovy blues mood. He is the epitome of a “born jazz musician”. He does not play jazz music – he lives jazz. Born in Sweden, he has resided in Copenhagen the better part of his professional life.
Thomas Clausen (b. 1949) is one of the most important Danish pianists. His powerful and original playing and his artistic oeuvre embrace a myriad of genres. At the age of twenty, Thomas’ professional career kick-started when he began accompanying Dexter Gordon and many other popular visiting artists including Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Ben Webster, Joe Henderson, Gary Burton, Lee Konitz and Dizzy Gillespie.
Bassist Jimmi Roger Pedersen (b. 1955) has a wonderful, rich bass sound, somewhere between Charlie Haden and Eberhard Weber. His technique and his musical presence have made him a popular sideman. For 15 years he toured with Horace Parlan, and he has backed many prominent artists including Benny Bailey, Al Grey and Lee Konitz.
American drummer Adam Nussbaum (b. 1955) drives the quartet as only he can. Throughout his career he has played with just about everybody!
“I am very satisfied with what the quartet has done with my old tunes from before I settled in Europe”, says Parlan. “They are from my time with Blue Note… and many of them have never been performed live, only at studio sessions with the American groups, and it’s really fun to hear them again after all these years. The more recent tunes have been vitalized as well. Yes, I am very satisfied. And grateful that the band was able to find the same feeling I myself like and have lived for. They are all amongst the greatest.”
Parlan has a good basis for comparison, because he has played with the greatest: Dexter, Mingus, Booker Erwin, Turrentine, Griffin, “Lockjaw” Davis, Clark Terry, Rollins, Thad Jones, Chet Baker, Archie Shepp and many more.
The quality of this recording crowns Parlan’s fairy tale with a jewel. Parlan himself chose all 11 tunes from his back catalogue, and every one is in his special, reflective blues mode. The title came naturally: MY SCANDINAVIAN BLUES.
Just when Norma and Horace were getting ready to enjoy a quiet old age, bad financial advice turned their economy from stable to disastrous, and when they moved to an old age home, their savings were practically gone. Now a widower, Parlan decided to use his last money well: in a manner that might benefit the music scene and especially young musicians. This is the background for MY SCANDINAVIAN BLUES. Horace Parlan’s last savings have financed the project. It is his hope that the project may generate a profit to lend a helping hand to keep jazz swinging.
Parlan has bequeathed his rights to the Ben Webster Foundation, which annually awards a monetary prize to a musician of importance to Danish Jazz. “I want to give something back and contribute to helping the music continue. So musicians can play, can survive and not loose faith. My music belongs to the musicians. Today, their circumstances are harder than when I came here”, says Horace Parlan.
The project grew with Volker Schöwerling, who matched Horace’s compositions with images. The German photographer became fascinated by Horace’s story and created six short music videos.
Tomas Franck (tenor sax), Thomas Clausen (piano), Jimmi Roger Pedersen (bass), Adam Nussbaum (drums) + Sinne Eeg (vocal)*
Producer: Horace Parlan
DVD: Volker Schöwerling
All music by Horace Parlan / lyrics on Norma & Little Esther by Susie Scraigg
CD: Us Three (1960) / Heading South (1962) / Norma* (1972) / In The Spur Of The Moment (1961) / One For Wilton (1980) / Arrival (1991) / Broken Promises (ca. 1991) / Little Esther* (app.1988) / Opus 16A (app. 1987) / Wadin’ (1960) / Party Time (1999).
DVD: Heading South / Us Three / Arrival / One For Wilton / Broken Promises
Oscar Pettiford and Jan Johansson in Denmark Featuring Stan Getz
Stunt Records /STUCD 16022 / New Arts International 66399316022 1
VÖ. Deutschland: 7. Oktober 2016
For many of the American musicians that visited Europe on their own or as members of touring bands, Sweden was the most important stop outside of Paris. In the 1950’s Swedish jazz had become a brand in American music business. Visiting American musicians sat in with their Swedish counterparts and recorded with them. Titled Dear Old Stockholm, the Swedish folk tune Ack Värmland du sköna enjoyed status close to a standard. It was no surprise that Sweden was the first important stopover for tenor saxophonist Stan Getz on his 1958 European tour. Nor was it surprising that his pianist during the engagement was Jan Johansson, or that Johansson accompanied him to Copenhagen, when Getz was offered a gig there. Johansson’s special lyrical and melodic approach appealed to the romantic in Getz. That was how Johansson came to Denmark.
In Copenhagen the perfect bassist was already waiting. The 36-year old musicians’ musician, Oscar Pettiford, had settled in Copenhagen after a European tour. Pettiford became part of the remarkable cultural summit that marked the beginning of the jazz club Montmartre in Copenhagen. With Pettiford’s arrival, the city experienced new times.
When Montmartre became a jazz club in 1959, Stan Getz fronted a unique quartet with Johansson, Pettiford and drummer Joe Harris – another American with a Swedish connection. In the States Harris had played with the Swedish trumpeter Rolf Ericson, best known for his work with Charlie Barnet and especially Duke Ellington. Harris had played in Europe with Dizzy Gillespie’s Big Band in 1948, and in 1956 Ericson brought him back.
Harris liked Sweden. When he arrived at the Montmartre, he was already married to a Swedish girl, had learnt Swedish – and even insisted on speaking it! With Harris completing the quartet, it was the perfect group. They opened the new Montmartre, which became the focus point of Copenhagen as Europe’s jazz capitol, Although some considered the title slightly exaggerated, it was not totally off target.
Seen with Danish eyes, the residing foreign musicians were more or less naturalized Danes. No integration problems there. The quartet also performed outside Copenhagen, but especially Pettiford could be heard in chamber settings with vibraphonist Louis Hjulmand and Jan Johansson and others - Johansson’s first idol was John Lewis of The Modern Jazz Quartet. The recording industry also profited from new blood.
Today most of these semi-Danes are dead. Pettiford only had a couple of years before his sudden demise from an apparently polio related virus. In the part of Copenhagen called Amager, streets are named after expatriate Americans like Ben Webster, Ernie Wilkins, Kenny Drew and Oscar Pettiford Street. Jan Johansson became known by every Danish child for his title tune for the successful Swedish television series based on Astris Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking stories before tragically dying in a car accident only 37-years old. Stan Getz died in 1991 and Louis Hjulmand in 2008. January 29, 2016 the news ticked in that Joe Harris had died at 89 in his hometown Pittsburgh. But their music from the formative years of the Danish jazz scene lives on in the tracks of this CD. Most of the music has not been available before now.
Oscar Pettiford put a lasting mark on Danish jazz during the short time he spent here. In February 1960 he recorded five tracks, on which he was the main soloist. The music presents an outstanding opportunity to focus on one of the greatest post-war bassists. He also plays cello on the recordings.
One of the huge attractions at the jazz club Montmartre in the last half of 1959 was the quartet with Getz, Johansson, Pettiford and Harris. However, they also performed at the Tivoli Gardens, which is where the music on this CD comes from.
Pettiford’s last Danish recordings took place late in August 1960. It was an EP featuring two vocalists: Grethe Kemp and bass singer Lee Gaines, who performs Bobby Timmons’ Moanin’. Gaines was the co-founder and lead singer in the popular vocal group the Delta Rhythm Boys, who were extremely successful all over Scandinavia with concerts and recordings of popular Swedish songs. Gaines also stayed on, but he moved farther north to Finland, where he married, learned the language, fathered a child (perhaps not quite in that order), and for a while became part of the local music scene.
The last half of this CD focuses on Johansson’s and Pettiford’s work with Danish vibraphonist Louis Hjulmand. In August 1959, they recorded four Hjulmand compositions. Like most of the rest of the music on this CD, these versions have not been previously released.
The trio, augmented by the Danish drummer William Schiøppfe, played a two-week engagement at Montmartre in August 1959. Fortunately, Louis Hjulmand had bought a tape recorder and made private recordings from some of the concerts. Another version of Now See How You Are comes from these tapes. Johansson plays with the fat, rich block chords that Pettiford encouraged him to use when Johansson became too sweet and “Swedish” during the solos. There are also two quartet recordings from a concert at a jazz club in Jutland.
The three last tracks on the album are sensational. Oscar Pettiford encouraged Hjulmand and Johansson to find inspiration in their own folk music. One afternoon during their stay at Montmartre in 1959, before the audience arrived, Louis Hjulmand recorded them playing three short pieces - Jan Johansson’s interpretations of Swedish folk music: Ack Värmland, Emigrantvisa (Emigrant Song) and a song called Farfars Sång (Granddad’s Song) – possibly the only documented version by Johansson. These folk music interpretations were recorded almost five years before Johansson’s famous masterpiece JAZZ PÅ SVENSKA, the all-time best-selling jazz album in Scandinavia, and an album that continues to inspire and delight generations and still keeps selling.
This album also features not previously shown images from the archives of photographer Jan Persson, notes by essayist Jørgen Siegumfeldt and producer Ole Matthiessen, and a great sound quality beautifully restored by sound magician Jørgen Vad.
Jan Johansson (p), Oscar Pettiford (b, cello) + Stan Getz (ts), Joe Harris (dr), Louis Hjulmand (vib), Lee Gaines (voc).
Sonny Boy / Willow Weep for Me / There’ll Never Be Another You / The Nearness of You / Now See How You Are / La Verne Walk / I Remember Clifford / Stuffy / Moanin’ / Fru Brüel / I Succumb To Temptations / Dahoud / Oleo / Now See How You Are / Ack Värmland, du sköna / Emigrantvisan / Farfars Sång.