13th February 2007, City Halls Recital Room

Part of Jazz from Sweden

Umm, a strange one this. I don’t listen to much early jazz, the occasional Hot Five/Seven or Sidney Bechet recorded excepted, so hearing a bunch of top class musicians playing music from the 1920s (rather than crackly old records or enthusiastic amateurs in a pub) was a slightly strange experience. I find it difficult to say how good it was because I don’t have many reference
points to compare it with. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a gig before where the main rhythm instruments were sousaphone and banjo.

One of the first things I noticed about it was just how raucous it was, even though they were
playing without amplification. Jazz must have sounded absolutely revolutionary when it first appeared. Martin Litton’s piano playing often disappeared in
the mix, which was a shame because his solos were very good. The star name in the Swedish Jazz Kings is trumpeter Bent Persson (presumably not a funny name if you’re Swedish), but on the night the stand out musician was soprano sax and clarinet player Thomas Örnberg. Most of their material was originally written by Louis Armstrong or Clarence Williams. I found it odd: I can hear an obvious continuum between most forms of jazz from Swing through to Ornette Coleman and pre-Pharoah Sanders Coltrane, but this style of playing seems to stand apart from it, in the same way that fusion or free improv does. I think it’s something to do with the different rhythm. I enjoyed it, though, and there is obviously a market for it, as the room was stowed out, with many of the audience being people who I hadn’t seen at jazz concerts before.