A Swedish jazz legend
For more than twenty years, the legendary “Radiojazzgruppen” assembled the Swedish jazz elite, recorded dozens of albums and worked with the world’s leading musicians and composers. Among the many prominent musicians were Lennart Åberg and Georg Riedel who, for this first Baltic Sea Festival jazz concert, have gathered both old and new stars on the jazz firmament. One of them is Rita Marcotulli, the Italian musician and composer who has lived and worked in Sweden and is one of Europe’s greatest jazz pianists.
From the very first day of broadcasting in January 1925, live music has been an essential part of Swedish radio. That same year, Swedish Radio formed its first orchestra tasked with providing music for radio broadcasts. The great musical names of the 30s and 40s included band leader and arranger Sune Waldimir, as well as conductor Sten Frykberg, and between 1943 and 1965, Swedish Radio had one orchestra that focused on classical music and one that primarily played music hall and light music. These two were combined in 1965 and formed the ensemble that we now know as the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. The vacuum following the merger led to the 1967 formation of Radiojazzgruppen, a studio ensemble that had performed on the radio, held concerts, recorded numerous albums and who were a strongly contributing factor in the emergence of Swedish jazz and its distinctive character.
From having focused on the American style, Swedish jazz musicians at the end of the sixties and onward began to also be influenced by both Swedish folk music and classical music. Among the experimental and ground-breaking musicians and composers were legends such as Arne Domnérus, Jan Allan, Lennart Åberg, Georg Riedel and Jan Johansson. But the ensemble was not solely a domestic affair; during Radiojazzgruppen’s active years, they collaborated with Thad Jones, Dizzy Gillespie, Carla Bley, Gil Evans and many other international jazz musicians. Even if the ensemble was dissolved many years ago, it has been revived in partly new constellations on a couple of occasions. Now saxophonist Lennart Åberg, who led Radiojazzgruppen in the early eighties, is again gathering the ensemble for this tribute to piano virtuoso and composer, Jan Johansson.
From 1962-1964, Jan Johansson, with Georg Riedel on bass, recorded the famous album “Jazz på svenska” (Jazz in Swedish). Included on the album is his arrangement of “Visa från Utanmyra” and “Berg-Kirstis polska”, which are probably engraved on most people’s minds, and folk music arrangements form a large part of Johansson’s work. A few years later, another two albums were released featuring Russian and Hungarian folk music in the same playful and ingenious format and “Musik genom fyra sekler” is a treasure trove of old songs dressed in jazz attire. But this is only one aspect of Johansson’s many talents. He was equally at home with classics like A Night in Tunisia and Willow Weep for Me, and he was certainly no stranger to compositions and audio experiments that challenged the established jazz sound.
His versatility can be heard on the posthumously released album “300,000”, which includes more traditional pieces such as “Visa från Järna” and “Fortare men ändå inte fortare”, but also the transcendent “Staden mellan broarna” and “300,000 km/s”, which borders on art music and electro-acoustic music. The album “Innertrio” includes the pulsating piece “Snälltåg”, a collaboration with composer Torbjörn Lundquist. Johansson also had time to write the music for seven films, as well as the theme tune to the Pippi Longstocking TV series. 1968 – in his final year – “Ljus tungt som bly”, a musical composition to Elisabet Hermodsson’s text, premièred in Uppsala Cathedral with Radiojazzgruppen and Court Singer Margareta Hallin as the soloist. In November that year, fifty years ago, Jan Johansson died in a tragic car accident and the world of music lost a virtuoso and a pioneer, constantly curious and with an unerring artistic talent.
Jazz musician and composer Lennart Åberg came into his own as a musician through his collaborations with artists such as Kurt Järnberg, Bosse Broberg, Monica and Carl-Axel Dominique, Monica Zetterlund and others. He is one of the youngest original members of Swedish Radio’s legendary jazz ensemble, “Radiojazzgruppen” (The Radio Jazz Group), for which he was band leader at the end of the seventies. He has also played in ensembles such as the George Russell Sextet, Oriental Wind and Rena Rama, as well as having a saxophone suite composed in his name by American jazz legend Bob Brookmeyer. Lennart Åberg has received several awards, among them a Swedish Grammis Award for his album Seven Pieces and the “Jazzkatten” award for ”Jazz Musician of the Year” in 2006.
Most people recognize Georg Riedel’s music from the film adaptations of Astrid Lindgren’s books, after he took over from Jan Johansson, as well as from Jazz på svenska (Jazz in Swedish) and other albums recorded by the two award-winning jazz musicians. As a skilled double bass player, he also played in several distinguished ensembles together with musicians such as Arne Domnérus, Jan Allan and Lars Gullin. In addition, Riedel has written a great deal of other film music and choral works to the writings of Tomas Tranströmer and Karin Liungman, as well as the opera Hemsöborna (The People of Hemsö) based on the novel by August Strindberg. Riedel has won three Swedish Grammis Awards as well as numerous scholarships and prizes, and is member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music.
Pianist Rita Marcotulli studied classical piano at the illustrious Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. She had her international breakthrough in the 1980s through her much acclaimed collaborations with artists like Chet Baker, Kenny Wheeler, Richard Galliano and Steve Grossman. She has toured Europe and the United States with Billy Cobham and performed with Pat Metheny at the San Remo Festival in 1996. Marcotulli frequently finds inspiration from Brazilian, African and Indian music, as well as from pop and folk music. She has recorded records on Label Bleu, Pony Canyon, Nicolosi, Le Chant du Monde and ACT, both on her own and with other soloists such as the saxophonist Dewey Redman and the accordion player Luciano Biondini.
In her teens, Amanda Sedgwick switched from the violin to the saxophone, inspired by legends like John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins. She started playing with Nils Lindberg’s big band and after finishing her studies at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, she has worked in the Hague, Atlanta and New York. Over the years, she has played with such artists as Bernt Rosengren, Nisse Sandström, Walter Booker, Leroy Williams and Deborah Brown. In 2013 in Berwaldhallen, she celebrated the composer and producer Quincy Jones together with Tommy Körberg, Sarah Dawn Finer and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. She has released four critically acclaimed albums with her own compositions, on Caprice and other labels.
Trumpeter, band leader, and composer Bosse Broberg was the Swedish Radio Head of Jazz for three decades and co-founder of the subsequently legendary Radiojazzgruppen, which was also influenced by his colleagues, Arne Domnérus and Jan Johansson. He played for many years in the CBQ ensemble, founded by Christer Boustedt, and since 1992, he has been leading his own ensemble, Nogenja, with whom he has also recorded several albums. For more than 45 years, he played in different constellations with pianist Gugge Hedrenius. Broberg has been awarded several scholarships and awards for his own performances as well as for his lifelong contribution to Swedish jazz.
Trumpeter Jan Allan is one of the country’s most distinguished jazz soloists. From having the trumpet as a secondary instrument he was employed by Carl-Henrik Norin’s Orchestra at the legendary Nalen nightclub and has contributed to numerous classical recordings with Lars Gullin, Rolf Billberg, Nils Lindberg and many others. Together with Bengt Hallberg and Georg Riedel, he formed the group Trio con Tromba in the eighties and also played for many years in Radiojazzgruppen. Jan Allan has been awarded several scholarships and awards and his internationally, critically acclaimed album ”Jan Allan -70” was awarded Gyllene Skivan (the Golden Record) as well as a Swedish Grammis Award. In addition, he has a PhD in particle physics from Stockholm University.
Internationally acclaimed guitarist Mats Bergström is frequently heard accompanying some of the nation’s foremost singers or as a ground-breaking soloist and ensemble musician. He has collaborated with artists such as Malena Ernman, Anne Sofie von Otter, Olle Persson, Mikael Samuelson and Edda Magnason, arranged a large number of works for guitar – among them Schubert’s song cycle Die schöne Müllerin – and made many recordings on labels such as BIS, Caprice and Naxos. Bergström has seen success with ensembles such as the London Sinfonietta, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and Ensemble Modern as well as having performed at the BBC Proms. He has been a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music since 2006.