Swedish bassist, cellist, composer and arranger Lars Danielsson is well-know and admired throughout the International jazz scene for his lyrical playing and strong groove. Born in 1958, he is a musician with particularly broad interests. At the conservatory in Gothenburg he had studied classical cello, before changing to bass and to jazz. As a bassist he has a uniquely rounded sound, which is as lyrical as powerful.
The "Lars Danielsson Quartet" with former Miles Davis saxophonist David Liebman, pianist Bobo Stenson and legendary ECM drummer Jon Christensen has received a lot of recognition and numerous awards during the 18 years of its existence. Danielsson has released ten solo-albums since 1980 with his quartet and guests such as Alex Acuña and John Abercrombie. The Quartet has been a testing ground for Danielsson’s work as a composer and arranger, which has extended over the last years to include both - symphony orchestra and big band music. He has worked with Denmark’s Radio Concert Orchestra as well as the JazzBaltica Ensemble as a composer, arranger and producer.
Lars Danielsson has worked with: Randy and Michael Brecker, John Scofield, Jack DeJohnette, Mike Stern, Billy Hart, Charles Lloyd, Terri Lyne Carrington and Dave Kikoski. He has also been a member of the "Trilok Gurtu Group".
As a producer, Lars Danielsson worked with Cæcilie Norby, Jonas Johansen, the Danish Radio Concert Orchestra and Viktoria Tolstoy.
In 2007, he received a commission for a piece with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestrafeaturing himself as a soloist together with Leszek Moždžer. He has also received a commission from the NDR Big Band and Wolfgang Haffner to write a piece for the JazzBaltica Festival 2007. Furthermore, he has been working with the St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra in collaboration with Vytas Sondeckis and Bugge Wesseltoft.
His 2008 album “Pasodoble” was a huge success. Jazzwise UK wrote about Danielsson’s collaboration with Polish pianist Leszek Moždžer: “A clarity of thought and execution rarely encountered in jazz.”
“Pasodoble” was followed by another collaboration with Leszek Moždžer on the 2009 album “Tarantella”. Once more the album caused enthusiastic reactions by Jazzwise: “Easily Danielsson’s finest album to date, it also numbers among the finest albums in the ACT catalogue.”
On his most recent album “Liberetto”, Lars Daniellson teams up with Armenian piano shooting Star “Tigran”, e.s.t. drummer Magnus Öström guitarist John Paricelli and Trumpeter Arve Henriksen to discovers new musical spaces and the freedom of music between chamber jazz, classic and European folk music.
Born: April 16t, 1958 in Halmstad, Sweden. Ulf Wakenius. A jazz guitarist extraordinaire acclaimed and celebrated all over the world. Between 1997 and 2007 Ulf held what may have been the most prestigious spot in jazz for a guitarist: a chair in the Oscar Peterson Quartet.This was the coronation of a career which included many record-breaking moments.Wakenius guitar duo Guitars Unlimited rocked Scandinavia in the early 80s, culminating in the 1985 Melody Grand Prix, which was seen by 600 million viewers, probably the largest audience a jazz guitar duo ever had. Shortly after that Wakenius started a extremely successful and long-lasting collaboration with the legendary bass player Niels-Henning Örsted Pedersen.( NHOP), and both of his duo albums with bass icon Ray Brown, topped the US Jazz Charts.The last few years he's been touriing the world with the amazing Korean singer Youn Sun Nah.
Oscar Peterson has publicly described Ulf as one of the greatest guitarists alive in the world today and many of today’s most acclaimed jazz guitarists are among Ulf’s fans, including Pat Metheny, John McLaughlin, John Scofield and Mike Stern. Great Rhythmic feel combines with a extraordinary lyrical touch- his emphasis is always on melodies and groove. He has been filmed by Clint Eastwood. His next release on ACT will be Ulf Wakenius-Solo "Momento Magico"
"As an improviser, you often find that it‘s not the compositions themselves you‘re playing, but your own memories of them. And as these memories come back to you in the moment, they assert their continuing existence in the here and now," says pianist/composer Michael Wollny. In other words, songs are like ghosts. Wollny‘s new album "Ghosts" is a gathering of some of the ghosts that regularly haunt him. Typically for Wollny, they range from classics like Franz Schubert's "Erlkönig" to jazz standards, film music, songs with a certain fragility by Nick Cave, say, or the band Timber Timbre, and also include his own darkly evocative original compositions.
In addition to Michael Wollny‘s leanings towards scary fantasy, the idea of "hauntology" is an important one for him. This term, which has been a looming presence in debates about pop music for some time, awakens memories of a distant past: forgotten, ghostly and spectral sounds. Wollny: "This perspective, these sounds and not least the term itself have preoccupied me in the past few months – and those reflections have led to the idea of producing a piano trio album dealing with the subject." A ghost album, then, that ventures into the depths of conscious and unconscious memory, sifts through stories originating in the past and which cast shadows on the present. This is a story of the friendly ghosts which surround us...but also of some evil spirits which we thought would never return.
The line-up to be heard on "Ghosts" is a direct follow-up from "Weltentraum", an album which now clearly stands as a cornerstone in Wollny's discography, since it established his reputation as an artist "who can turn every conceivable piece of music into an experience to take your breath away" (Die Zeit). American bassist Tim Lefebvre‘s very particular sound and vibe are to be heard on albums by David Bowie, Wayne Krantz and Elvis Costello. Wollny‘s most recent adventure alongside him was the internationally acclaimed project "XXXX". Wollny says: "When you work with Tim, you're not just working with one of the world's top bass players - Tim always has a foot in the world of sound processing, and is constantly expanding his electronic tool-kit. In addition to that, he creates phenomenal clarity in music and in overall sound, which has an unbelievable effect: it gives a shape and an organisation to the music without ever restricting you."
Wollny has been playing with drummer Eric Schaefer for almost 20 years. Like Lefebvre, he is also a complete original, a musician with an almost orchestral approach to sound, an unmistakable sense of groove and impressive individuality."The three of us are aligned in a special , inexplicable way. It‘s hard to describe but the effect is massive," says Wollny. "Last but not least, we are connected by the long time we have spent together. As a trio we have a specific sound, and we are now developing that in a wholly new direction." On "Ghosts", the trio has created a sound in the specific tradition of "Southern Gothic": deep, earthy, full of vibrating, rattling low-tuned strings and drumheads, evoking memories of clapped-out guitar amps, distorted cones of speakers cones. The atmosphere here is oppressively hot, the air heavy with dust.
Before "Ghosts" was actually recorded, another trio - Michael Wollny and the two co-producers Andreas Brandis and Guy Sternberg- convened. Brandis, who had already been heavily involved in the concept of "XXXX", brought to the table the concept of an album of songs, with the right people involved. Sternberg - he, as sound engineer, and Wollny had created the sound world of "Wunderkammer", which was to serve as the point of departure for this new album. Wollny says: "Even before the setlist for the album was fixed, I had a very clear sound in mind, which we discussed extensively with Guy and Andreas beforehand." The trio inhabits an acoustic space where nothing is superfluous or goes to waste: the long-dying resonance from a cymbal, drum or plucked string, or a sound from a reverberant surface, all are somehow there in the air. And sometimes all that remains is an acoustic or an electronic echo, a sound that hovers and acquires its own mysterious and spectral existence.
All the tracks on the album have one thing in common: each is a snapshot in the life of an individual song. Wollny: "Especially in jazz, there is never one definitive version of a piece. The standards repertoire always haunts you in the best sense of the word, these songs are never finished, they always resurface." And so, when it comes to classics such as "I Loves You Porgy" and "In a Sentimental Mood", Wollny, Lefebvre and Schaefer‘s primary point of reference is not the original compositions, but versions by Nina Simone and John Coltrane / Duke Ellington. And from a time before jazz standards, there are the spirits that inhabit folk songs and which reappear whenever these songs are sung. As, for example, in the traditional Irish folk song "She Moved Through the Fair", which is almost a prototype for the idea that ghost stories are to a large extent also love stories. As is also the case for "Willow's Song" - a seductive and dangerous love song from the legendary soundtrack for the cinema thriller "Wicker Man", a classic of the Nordic horror genre, as strange as it is frightening. Also related to "grand guignol" and nature: a startlingly vivid arrangement of Franz Schubert's "Erlkönig". In addition, in reference to the sultry "Southern Gothic": "Hand of God" by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis, audibly dedicated to Wollny's great mentor, whom he describes as the "Hand of God", Joachim Kühn. And furthermore, "Beat the drum slowly" by the band Timber Timbre, a perennial favourite of Wollny's, and "Ghosts" by David Sylvian - perhaps the clearest representation of the themes that characterise "Ghosts": here we find that melodies and sounds can haunt memories that stay either hidden or repressed, and in a way that is at the same time seductive, touching, mysterious and profound. Two original compositions by Wollny find their place naturally in this cleverly selected programme, which is as heterogeneous as it is coherent: first is Wollny's eponymous contribution to "Hauntology", for him "a ‘song without words‘ which comes from another, past or strange, parallel pop world" and then "Monsters never breathe" with its melody that stretches into infinity and could only ever be sung if it were possible to sing without needing to pause for breath.
"All the songs are living ghosts and long for a living voice" wrote the Irish poet Brendan Kennelly (1936 - 2021) in one of his most famous poems. For Michael Wollny, this line is a cryptic and yet profound insight. It adds an eerie beauty and serves as a motto for his fascination for the magic of songs which this recording represents. When we talk about ghosts, we look into what seems to be the past, and bring back memories from it into our lives. We as listeners can all believe in the "Ghosts" that the Michael Wollny Trio hear. Because we can all hear them and recognise them.
In his youth, Jan Lundgren was often seen as one of the greatest talents in tennis since Björn Borg. Thankfully, he has since changed allegiances.
Lundgren, born in Kristianstad in southern Sweden on March 22nd 1966, and raised in Ronneby, Blekinge, had his first piano lessons at age five. He was soon discovered to have an exceptional musical talent. After a long period of classical training, he discovered jazz more or less by chance in the late 1980’s. He was instantly hooked, rapidly absorbed the jazz piano tradition from Oscar Peterson, Erroll Garner to Bud Powell and Bill Evans, and acquired a depth of knowledge of the Great American Songbook like possibly no other European jazz pianist.
While sailing through his studies at the renowned Royal College of Music in Malmö (where he was purportedly accepted on the condition that he occupies the piano chair in the legendary « Monday Night Big Band ») he also took up a busy schedule as a professional musician that quickly helped to build his reputation in Sweden. Discovered by Swedish bebop legend Arne Domnérus, he frequently played with other Swedish stars like Putte Wickman and Bernt Rosengren.
Lundgren’s debut album “Conclusion” was released in 1994, and propelled his career firmly forward. The following year saw the formation of the Jan Lundgren Trio with long time student associates Mattias Svensson (bass) and Rasmus Kihlberg (drums), who was replaced in the beginning of the year 2000 by the Dane Morten Lund. This steady band recorded seven well-received and commercially very successful albums for the Swedish label “Sittel” in the period up to 2003. The album “Swedish Standards”, released in 1997 even became a bestseller and reached a place in the Swedish pop charts. But the album “Landscapes” (2003) sold comparably and both releases soon became classics due to their linking Swedish folk music and jazz. The band’s intense tour schedule founds a temporary peak in a concert at Carnegie Hall as part of “Swedish Jazz salutes the USA”.
As a sideman, Lundgren has accompanied such greats as Johnny Griffin, Benny Golson, Herb Geller, James Moody, Pete Jolly or singer Stacey Kent. He has also shared the stage with ACT-artist Ulf Wakenius a number of times.
Jan Lundgren has been awarded a number of prizes since the early 90’s: In 1997 “Swedish Standards” became “best jazz album of the year”. He was nominated for the “Swedish Grammy” in 1995, 1997 and 2008 and the “Swedish Django d’Or Prize” in 1998, 2001 and 2002.
Having visited a long list of European territories and venues, Lundgren has also been on extended tours of Australia and Japan. He has visited the USA about 15 times and recorded some well-received albums for the label “Fresh Sound” (with, among others, pianist Lou Levy and trombonist Andy Martin).
In 2006 Lundgren becomes part of the ACT family: Initially he was featured as a sideman on the Ida Sand album Meet Me Around Midnight (ACT 9716-2). In July 2007 he released his first ACT album Fresu – Galliano – Lundgren: Mare Nostrum (ACT 9466-2), followed by Magnum Mysterium (ACT 9457-2), which will be released in November of 2007.
In 2008 Lundgren could reap the fruits of his labour, and his Mare Nostrum was performed in front of sold out houses on prestigious stages throughout Europe (Salle Gaveau – Paris, Tonhalle – Zurich, Victoria Hall – Geneva, Teatro Dante Aligheri – Ravenna, S. Caecilia – Rome …) as well as at Jazz Baltica, the North Sea Jazz Festival, and the Istanbul Jazz Festival. There are many good reasons why the band has been called “the first European super group”.
In the same year Lundgren was honoured with the Swedish Django d’Or, and began a collaboration with the classical trumpet player Hǻkan Hardenberger and the Swedish writer Jacques Werup – an exiting melange of modern classical and free music, of jazz and compositions of Jan Lundgren.
Lundgren also brought the Jan Lundgrun trio back to life in 2008, albeit with a new drummer, Zoltan Csörsz Jr. who proved to be a truly lucky catch for the trio. A new repertoire has resulted in the new ACT album European Standards (ACT 9482-2) which will be released in Mai 2009 together with the re-release of Swedish Standards (ACT 9022-2) from the ACT Jazz Classics series.
Jan Lundgren is part of a remarkable and long tradition of innovative pianists from Sweden like Jan Johansson who passed away early, and in more recent times Bobo Stenson and Esbjörn Svensson. Lundgren has never made life easy for himself, and has always tried to utilize his phenomenal technique to enhance his musicality. His ability to integrate the most disparate musical influences into a fascinating whole is unique in itself. Whether its contemporary classical music, the inexhaustible northern folk tradition or the pulsating groove of jazz, deeply rooted in Afro-American music: Lundgren has a unique way of leading the listener on a voyage of discovery – sometimes relaxed, sometimes utterly invigorating - through his highly individual soundscapes.
The Swedish singer Viktoria Tolstoy was born in the small town of Sigtuna, near Stockholm, in 1974, but she has Russian blood in her veins. Her great-grandfather, the son of the world-famous writer Leo Tolstoy, grew up in Tsarist Russia. He suffered from a nervous illness, sought medical help from a famous Swedish specialist, fell in love with the specialist’s daughter, married her and settled in Sweden at the end of the 19th century. Since then the ancestors of Viktoria, the great-great-granddaughter of the legendary novelist, have lived in Sweden.
Viktoria’s childhood and adolescence were spent in Uppsala. Her father, a Swedish jazz musician, took his daughter’s musical education into his own hands, and introduced her to the world of jazz. In the mid 1990’s, while performing at a Stockholm club, she was discovered by a record company and offered a recording contract. Her debut album Smile, Love and Spice – for which her father wrote several of the tracks – immediately attracted the attention of the circle of leading Swedish jazz musicians, such as Arne Domnerus, Putte Wickman and Svante Thuresson.
Less than two years later, her strongly pop-oriented album För Älskad – Too Loved hurled her to the top of the charts, and made her a star at home almost overnight.
In 1997, the then only 22 year-old Tolstoy recorded the phenomenal White Russians. The melodious pop jazz on this album established her place in the charts as a star in Sweden. She had written the music together with her compatriot Esbjörn Svensson (who was also the producer of the album) and they performed together with his trio e.s.t. Soon afterwards Viktoria Tolstoy accompanied e.s.t. on their first German tour.
Next, Viktoria performed worldwide with jazz greats such as Ray Brown and McCoy Tyner and concentrated mainly on developing her career in Sweden. In 2000 she released a selection of jazz standards with her quartet, which were published under the title Blame It On My Youth.
Nils Landgren had already featured her as a guest on his Funk Unit album 5000 Miles (ACT 9271-2) in 1999, and three years later Tolstoy could again be heard on his ballads album Sentimental Journey (ACT 9409-2). Since the end of 2003 she has been exclusively signed to ACT. In February 2004 she released her ACT debut album Shining on You (ACT 9701-2). Within a week it reached number 2 in the Swedish jazz charts and number 26 in the pop charts.
The songs – “incredibly beautiful and intimate melodies” (FonoForum) – again all originated from the pen of Esbjörn Svensson. Nils Landgren produced this successful album, which in the same year received a German Jazz Award. The press raved about her voice “as clear as glass, simply wonderful” (taz), “unpretentiously natural, with a light, smoky timbre” (Hamburger Abendblatt) and praised her as a “master of ‘less is often more’” (FonoForum).
Tolstoy toured for a whole year all over Europe with her own show, supported the Nils Landgren Funk Unit with two songs on the album Funky ABBA (ACT 9430-2) including the incredible “When all is said and done” with none other than Benny Andersson himself on the piano, and accompanied the band on the Funky ABBA tour of China.
In April 2005 Tolstoy released her second album on ACT: My Swedish Heart (ACT 9705-2). It’s an expression of love and a tribute to 50 years of “Jazz made in Sweden”. The selection of songs ranges from compositions by Jan Johansson or Lars Gullin and freshly treated traditionals - among them the folksong “Jag Vet en Dejlig Rosa” that was made famous by Monica Zetterlund’s 1964 recording with the Bill Evans Trio - to compositions by Viktorias friends and colleagues Esbjörn Svensson, Lars Danielsson, Anders Jormin and Jacob Karlzon. The Süddeutsche Zeitung called the album - which reached number 1 in the Swedish and number 2 in the German jazz charts, and was a huge success on extended tours of Europe and Canada - an „elegant balancing act between Scandinavian folk and jazz“.
Her third ACT-album Pictures Of Me (ACT 9712-2), released in October 2006, is another example of her versatility, and it is full of surprising and personal interpretations of famous (and less famous) pop songs by Paul Simon, Prince, Peter Gabriel, Stevie Wonder, a.o. Viktoria Tolstoy, her long time piano player Jacob Karlzon and her current producer, the wonderful bass player and cellist Lars Danielsson have found wonderful arrangements for their convincing adaptations. With Pictures of Me, Tolstoy entered the Swedish album chart at #27.
For many years now, Viktoria Tolstoy has been keen to explore her Russian musical roots.Together with ACT colleague Nils Landgren, producer already on her first two albums, Tolstoy finally dared to attempt this undertaking and managed to make a modern kaleidoscope of Russian music by bringing out My Russian Soul (ACT 9721-2, release date: October 2008). It was created with the incorruptible perspective of an artist, who gets to the bottom of her musical visions as well as her soul.
The ACT Signature Edition, released in April 2011, gives an impressive overview of Viktoria Tolstoy’s artistic career to date: two CDs with a total of 24 tracks document her path as one of the most defining and successful artists of European jazz.
Her album Letters to Herbie, released in September 2011, is dedicated to one of Viktoria Tolstoy’s greatest inspirations: the music of American pianist and composer Herbie Hancock. Its soulful grooving songs, particularly from the 80s, gives Viktoria Tolstoy, together with producer Nils Landgren, a totally new and unmistakable sound between jazz, soul and pop.
With A Moment Of Now (Release: November 2013) Viktoria Tolstoy and Pianist Jacob Karlzon create 14 fascinating and magical moments that will remain in the listeners ears for long. In an intimate duo setting the two change the fundamental character of carefully selected songs from Jazz, Pop and Rock.
Marius Neset (b. 1985) remembers his very first experiences as an instrumentalist, well before he took up the saxophone at the age of eight: “As a 5-year old kid, I got a drum set,” he says, “and it was the beginning of an incredibly exciting – and rhythmical, musical journey. From the beginning it felt natural to me to play around with grooves in different odd meters, and play around with different polyrhythms too.” This particular focus, this ever-present sense of adventure are intrinsic to everything he does, whether working as a solo saxophonist, in a jazz quintet, as part of chamber ensembles or with big bands or symphony orchestras.
Neset made an astonishingly powerful impression when he first emerged onto the European jazz scene as a young saxophonist of protean gifts more than a decade ago.
Django Bates, who was a teacher and a significant mentor at the Rhythmic Conservatory in Copenhagen, had Neset in several of his band, and also appeared on Neset’s breakthrough album, Golden Xplosion (Edition, 2011).
The intervening years have seen him bring his huge creative energy to so many roles in different contexts, as either an instigator or as a catalyst. An aspect of his work which does not often receive the attention it deserves is the substantial catalogue of works which Neset now has to his name as a composer, a list which continues to grow. He has received and fulfilled a flow of major commissions for substantial pieces for large ensembles and orchestras, starting in 2012 with “Lion” written for the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, first performed at the Molde Jazz Festival, and released as a CD in 2014. The album marked his debut with one of the leading jazz labels in Europe, ACT, with whom he has gone on to make a total of ten albums in his own name.
Since “Lion” Neset has written three major works with the London Sinfonietta: “Arches of Nature” / “Snowmelt” (2016), described as “majestic” by Downbeat, “Viaduct (2018) commissioned by the Kongsberg Jazz Festival, and most recently a commission, “Geyser” from the BBC Proms which was premiered in the Royal Albert Hall in September 2022.
Other commissions have come from Big Bands in both Bergen and Copenhagen, from the Rosendal Chamber Music Festival, where artistic director Leif Ove Andsnes, one of the leading classical pianists in the world, is a close musical colleague and friend, and from symphony orchestras: the Bergen Philharmonic who have commissioned both a saxophone concerto, “Manmade” (2020), released by the Chandos label, and a 20-minute piece for full orchestra without saxophone (2021), and also the Norwegian Radio Orchestra.
Marius Neset has now received well over twenty awards or award nominations for albums and from festivals. The first was received as a teenager from the NattJazz Festival in Bergen. In Norway several EDVARD nominations and Spelleman prize and nominations have followed. He has won prize and been nominated in different categories at the German ECHO Awards. He was also the only European to be listed as one of "25 for the Future" by Downbeat in 2016.
Neset’s dynamism and his organisational capacity are such that this substantial activity as composer runs in parallel with a busy touring schedule as both leader and sideman – he is a member of Arild Andersen’s new quartet which has a new recording on ECM. It is just part of a substantial and growing discography. Neset’s main release in the current quarter (autumn 2022) is with a newly-formed quintet. “Happy”, on the ACT label features Neset’s closest musical associate, Swedish drummer Anton Eger, and other leading lights of European jazz of his generation: Magnus Hjorth on piano, Elliot Galvin on keyboards and Conor Chaplin on electric bass.
The common thread running through Neset’s career is that both his compositions and playing have consistently attracted other world class musicians, not only the jazz-scene, but from from many different genres in the musical world to want to work. The result is that the sheer breadth of Marius Neset’s activity at the top level in all kinds of musical contexts is astonishing, and is still broadening.