We are very indebted, and may not even know that enough properly — to the Swedish jazz scene. Jan Johansson, an influence today on Kit Downes, the cult album Swedish Folk Modern, Bobo Stenson, Esbjörn Svensson, Martin Tingvall, pianist Daniel Karlsson’s bassist Christian Spering went to school with the now Hamburg based Tingvall, the list goes on but begins with Bengt Hallberg. Stan Getz was captivated by ‘Dear Old Stockholm’, the rest is history.
Hearing and then speaking to Daniel Karlsson in the between sets break when his trio played the Spice of Life in Soho for the first time the pianist took me way back. Karlsson is a hugely melodic player, couched in modern mainstream jazz, the sort of technically dazzling jazz that should not by rights even when largely shorn of its swinging Hallberg pedigree as here exist any more. There is a melancholy to it but also a fun joie de vivre. There are monster ostinatos whether eating from the pianist’s left hand or out of the blue from the bass.
Best known to UK audiences if at all for his work with Esbjörn drummer Magnus Öström and the mercurial Oddjob —“Skål” my Swedish is limited, just being friendly, was all I could muster before he returned to the stage.
The trio flew in from Madrid, braved a “metro” meltdown and the dubious slapstick of a Ryanair flight. Travelling with a bass is unusual these days given all the obstacles erected and extra expense needed but when possible it is worth it given the ease the trio's tall intense bassist seemed to exude not having to get used to a borrowed instrument.
A brilliant pianist who works closely with bass and drums, there is a sense of Swedish folk music, the easy sprinting up and down the Spice’s fine Yamaha piano which was very well amplified and more than that the ache, poignancy and tenderness of the north teasing out fickle sonics via the buzz of a touch of electronics wafting up largely from the bass, and a willingness to take a few risks fiddling with the elasticity of tuning that the electronics allowed.
Paul Pace showed his customary acumen in booking this very sophisticated trio who played originals of Karlsson’s throughout to a lovely audience. And you know what? Somehow Esbjörn was hovering there, Good Morning Susie Soho almost like the late-1990s was just a moment ago, willing them on without being too fanciful. Spering was a Palle Danielsson, you cannot praise him more highly than that. Stephen Graham
Fredrik Rundqvist above left, Christian Spering, and Daniel Karlsson add a touch of Spice. The blink, you’ll regret you’ll miss it if you aren’t able to make it, tour continues in Birmingham at 1000 Trades, the Jazz Cafe in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and Hen & Chicken in Bristol. pics: marlbank