Shortly after moving to Sweden, my sister-in-law gave me a ride back to my apartment. After a bit of chatting she said she had a cd I had to hear. It was Jan Johansson’s “Jazz på Svenska” cd. She said he is Sweden’s best jazz pianist, and I think even Sweden’s best selling jazz album. Having never heard of him and doubtful Sweden could produce some great jazz I was skeptical. Wow was I instantly hooked. Apparently he had collected old folk melodies from around the country and jazzed them up with his bassist.
A nice thing with jazz in comparison with classical is it is easier, or maybe even mandatory to develop a unique and instantly recognizable style and sound. That certainly is also true with this fascinating pianist. Sadly he died young, we will never get to know what heights he might have achieved. Jan Johannson can swing with such phenomenal delicacy, his improvising is quite spare and he utilizes an occasional wrong sounding note so deliciously. I am always instantly drawn into the sound world he creates, please give a few of his recordings a try, I would be quite surprised to hear you don’t also love his sound and style.
This was a particularly difficult melody for me to work with, I think I somehow got lucky when I pushed record that day. I tried to honor the gentle pulse he creates throughout the piece while also keeping track of what both hands are independently doing trying to improvise contrapuntally. I usually get quite lost when I try working with this melody. His rendition of the nostalgic folk melody is simply outstanding. I am hard-pressed to think of another musician that swings and breathes with such calm finesse.