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OSCAR PETTIFORD AND JAN JOHANSSON

In Denmark 1959 - 1960

Stunt Records STUCD 16022

 

 

 

 

  1. Sonny Boy

  2. Willow Weep For Me

  3. There'll Never Be Another You

  4. The Nearness Of You

  5. Now See How You Are

  6. La Verne Walk

  7. I Remember Clifford

  8. Stuffy

  9. Moanin'

  10. Fru Brüel

  11. I Succumb To Temptations

  12. Dahoud

  13. Oleo

  14. Now See How You Are

  15. Ack Värmeland, Du Sköna

  16. Emigrantvisan

  17. Farfars Säng

    Personnel:

    Tracks 1-5: Bent Axen - Piano, Oscar Pettiford - Bass, cello, Erik Moseholm - Bass, Finn Federiksen - Drums

    Tracks 6-8: Stan Getz - Tenor sax, Jan Johansson - Piano, Oscar Pettiford - Bass, Joe Harris - Drums

    Track 9: Allan Botskinsky - Trumpet, Uffe Karskov - Alto sax, Bent Nielsen - Baritone sax, Jan Johansson - Piano, Lars Blach - Guitar, Oscar Pettiford - Bass, arranger, Jørn Elniff - Drums, Lee Gaines - Vocals

    Tracks 10, 11: Louis Hjulmand - Vibes, Jan Johansson - Piano, Oscar Pettiford - Bass

    Tracks 12-14: Louis Hjulmand - Vibes, Jan Johansson - Piano, Oscar Pettiford - Bass, William Schiøppfe - Drums

    Tracks 15-17: Jan Johansson - Piano

    Oscar Pettiford and Jan Johansson, the headliners on this album, both had lives that ended prematurely. Pettiford died in Copenhagen in September 1960, of a polio related virus, while Johansson was killed in a traffic accident in his native Sweden in November 1968. Coincidentally, both were aged only 37 at the time of their deaths. Pettiford was regarded in his early days as the natural heir to the late Jimmy Blanton who had been noted for the quality of his technique and tone. Pettiford had started off with the family touring band but over the years played with several significant big bands (notably Duke Ellington), including leading his own from 1956-57. He was a sideman with a variety of bop groups, as well as leading, from time to time, quintets and trios. He had toured in Europe in September 1958 and decided to settle in Copenhagen in June of the following year. Johansson, meanwhile, was a creative and innovative pianist who was making his mark on the international jazz scene. His recordings of folk music in a jazz style were particularly successful. He was a composer and arranger for the cinema, television, theatre and even the ballet!

    What we have here are tracks recorded in several different venues in Copenhagen, with several different line-ups, during a period from August 20 1959 to February 1960. Pettiford features on fourteen of them, Johansson on twelve. They can be heard together on nine occasions. The opening set consists of familiar standards plus a Pettiford original. The pick of these is The Nearness Of You where the melody is beautifully captured by Pettiford, who displays masterly improvisational power, aided and abetted by a couple of trusty local musicians. One of these, Danish pianist Bent Axen, is especially effective on There Will Never Be Another You (wrongly listed on the sleeve as There'll Never Be Another You). He also provides sublime accompaniment for Pettiford on Willow Weep For Me. The first of two versions on the disc of a Pettiford piece, Now See How You Are, shows the bass player's ability as a composer, delivering a listenable and authentic jazz theme. On this latter offering, as on Sonny Boy, Pettiford plays cello, with Erik Moseholm on bass.

    If anyone wonders why Stan Getz also receives prominent billing on the cover of the CD, given that he only plays on three tracks, the sheer class of his performance should provide the answer. Recorded in the Tivoli Gardens, with Pettiford, Johansson and American drummer Joe Harris along from the ride, Getz is on splendid form. Harris, incidentally, spent over ten years in Europe, living first in Sweden, then in Germany before his return to the USA in 1967. Another Pettiford original, La Verne Walk, used to be viewed as a test piece for young musicians to cut their teeth on. Sure enough, Pettiford shows how it is done with penetrating clarity. Stan Getz, in his inimitable style, effortlessly (so it seems!) swings while Johansson is impeccable on piano and there is some neat drumming from Harris. For I Remember Clifford, the Benny Golson tune, Getz is at his most lush, the other three musicians taking something of a back seat. The Coleman Hawkins composition, Stuffy, demonstrates (if it were needed) that, whatever the tempo, Getz is master of it. This treatment rattles along like an express train and, though it is fun, is marginally less appealing than the other two tracks with Getz.

    One of the finest jazz classics, Moanin', receives a vocal interpretation from the rich, bass voice of Lee Gaines, and the octet who accompany him, all Europeans except for Pettiford, catch the flavour of the piece well. The five tracks that follow are variable. Dahoud (or Daahoud as it is usually known), for instance, has some intrusive drumming and Pettiford is pretty well drowned out. I reckon this one, with a live club audience, is unsufficiently nuanced and the recording is not of the best. The quartet does better, however, on the Sonny Rollins favourite Oleo. I'd not previously come across the Danish vibraphone player, Louis Hjulmand, but he is a lively presence and there is a good solo from Jan Johansson. Two of Hjulmand's tunes, Fru Brüel, which has an MJQ feel about it, and I Succumb To Temptations, provide incisive vibes from the composer as well as showcasing Pettiford and Johansson. But the standout track is the second version on the disc of Now See How You Are. This is a first-rate swinger with Pettiford's authoritative bass and his companions potent contributions making this ten and a half minute track seem too short. The last three tracks are tantalisingly brief. They consist of fragmentary versions by Johansson of Swedish folk melodies. I suspect that, like me, you'll be left wanting more.

    The loss of Pettiford and Johansson at a young age, with obviously so much still to come, was tragic. Their recordings are poignant in that respect. Their influence was to continue, however, through their impact on fellow musicians, such as Ray Brown and Charles Mingus in the case of Pettiford, while Jan Lundgren was to be an inspirational forerunner for a distinguised line of Swedish jazz pianists who would include Bobo Stenson, Esbjörn Svenson and Jan Lundgren. This album helps us appreciate the place they occupy in jazz history.

    James Poore


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