Jan Lundgren (p), Chuck Berghofer (b), Joe LaBarbera (d)
Reference: FSRCD 5050
Bar code: 8427328650502
#1 winner in the 2011 Jazz Journal Critics' Poll
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
A Sweet Celebration, Secretly Recorded
In 1981, when Jan Lundgren was 15, he was so good at tennis that he won a competition among young Swedish players. The prize was a week of lessons with the worlds champion, Björn Borg. As it turned out, scheduling made it impossible for Mr. Borg to give the lessons. And Mr. Lundgren, who had studied classical piano since the age of 5, had found another love by thenjazz.
A year before the tennis adventure, a pianist substituting for Mr. Lundgrens regular music teacher had given the teenager an unusual assignmentbuy an Oscar Peterson record. He bought Petersons 1962 trio album Night Train. I went home with the recording, put it onto the record player and was astonished because I had never heard music like that before in my life, Mr. Lundgren said in 2008. This music had a strong impact on me. I didn't know then that I would become a jazz pianist, but I knew that I had fallen in love with this music.
After high school, Mr. Lundgren continued his classical studies at the Royal College of Music in Malmö, refined his jazz skills and was discovered by alto saxophonist Arne Domnérus, a hero of Swedish jazz. Soon, the music student was playing jazz engagements with Domnérus, saxophonist Bernt Rosengren and clarinetist Putte Wickman. Petersons high level of improvisation and swing provided a foundation, but Mr. Lundgrens stylistic horizon widened to include Bill Evans, Tommy Flanagan, Jimmy Rowles and other noted pianists. By the mid-1990s, he moved into the first rank of European jazz pianists with international followings, and at age 45 continues to be in demand in Europe and Asia for concerts and recordings. His personal appearances and albums sell out in Japan. He has recorded 12 CDs in the U.S. In November, he toured in India.
In concerts Mr. Lundgren often credits Peterson, who died in 2007, with igniting his passion for jazz. He does so again in his most recent album as he introduces his poignant, unaccompanied performance of Tenderly, a song indelibly associated with Peterson. The album, Together Again . . . At the Jazz Bakery (Fresh Sound), is remarkable on two counts: for the playing of Mr. Lundgren, bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Joe LaBarbera; and for existing at all. It was not intended to become an album. In early 2008, the veteran producer Dick Bank was working with the trio on another project. For reference purposes, he captured the concert at the Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles on a two-track digital audio-tape recorder, a far cry from the sophisticated 12-track machines used in studios to capture every sonic subtlety. Mr. Bank transferred the tape to CD, put the disc in the player in his cars trunk, and forgot about it. When, two years later, he finally got around to listening to it, he was astonished.
In the notes for the album, Mr. Bank quotes himself that day: This is good. This is really good. This has to come out! He gave the tape to editing engineer Talley Sherwood, who improved the recording by eliminating the pauses between pieces in the live performance, but the sound remained short of the fullness Mr. Bank wanted. Mr. Bank then took the problem to Bernie Grundman, a mastering engineer known for resuscitating hopeless recordings. His console can control 38 audio frequencies, as many as 18 at a time. Most challenging of all, Mr. Bank considered the small Yamaha grand piano inadequate. We worked with the piano sound, he told me, so that it could be mistaken for a Steinway Concert Grand. My original recording could never have been released commercially. It took six months of painstaking trial runs and reference discs before the balance, depth and relationships among the instruments satisfied Mr. Bank.
After the rigors of the audio rescue, how is the music? Mr. Lundgren, who did not know the concert had been recorded, listened to the album and then broke through his modesty, Swedish reserve and customary self-criticism. Responding to a recent email query, he likely exhausted his lifetime allotment of exclamation points: I am very happy!! What a great surprise!! I am proud!! Some of my best playing!! Great!! It requires no suspension of disbelief to agree. Mr. Lundgrens clarity of execution matches the clarity of his ideas. He is at the top of his game in all of the elements of jazz pianism: touch, dynamics, harmonic imagination, swing, power and delicacy. In Mr. Banks stealth recording, the teamwork of Messrs. Lundgren, Berghofer and LaBarbera in their concert of American Songbook standards and jazz classics equals or exceeds that of their previous encounters.
Mr. Lundgren now turns part of his attention to artistic directorship of the jazz festival he helped found in the southern Swedish seaside town of Ystad. This year it will be held Aug. 2-5. The 2011 festival included world-class musicians Toots Thielemans, Herb Geller, Pat Martino and Dave Douglas; the Korean singer Youn Sun Nah; players from throughout Scandinavia and other parts of Europe; and a contingent of mainstream musicians from New York. Jazz festivals around the world are attempting to shore up attendance by including pop, rock and folk music. In Ystad, Mr. Lundgren managed to maintain artistic integrity and attract sellout crowds. As for his own playing, his unaccompanied performance of Thelonious Monks Round Midnight drew praise in Britains Jazz Journal as a riveting reinvention. It brought him a standing ovation.
Doug Ramsey January 19, 2012
Mr. Ramsey writes about jazz for The Journal
and Rifftides, at www.dougramsey.com.
"Jan Lundgren, Chuck Berghofer and Joe LaBarbera served up some of the
tastiest trio menus at Ruth Price's Jazz Bakery during the 17 years of the
club's existence. They were captured in full spate in 1996 on the 2-CD
Fresh Sound set Cooking! At the Jazz Bakery. Eleven years later, almost
accidentally, they were recorded at the venue again with highly impressive
results. Clearly a release for inclusion in every best of the year list."
-Mark Gardner (Jazz Journal, January 2012)
"Jan Lundgren, Chuck Berghofer and Joe LaBarbera... One of the hippest trios of our time"
"This was never intended to be a commercial recording. If such were the case, Talley Sherwood would have been there to engineer it. Ive recorded Bill Perkins, Arne Domnérus, et al. as a souvenir of their performance at The Jazz Bakery. This was for my ears alone... and then I turned a deaf ear on it!
It was a difficult place to record, even for the best professionals. The acoustics were a nightmare with its very high vault ceiling. In a previous life, it had been the garage for the Helms Bakery trucks. As a young boy in the late Thirties, I looked forward each afternoon to the Helmsman when he came down Crescent Heights Boulevard. I especially loved the chocolate cupcakes... in their time they had no equal!
The same thing happened once before in March, 1995. I had produced Claude Williamson (with Dave Carpenter and Paul Kreibich) for VSOP. In attempting to help Claude resurrect his career, a booking was arranged at the B; his first club gig since Dontes in March, 1966! It followed the studio session by three weeks. I recorded it, came home late that night, sat down to listen... and was knocked out! I listened to every bit of it. It required a lot of worknineteen hoursby engineer Joe Sidore before the souvenir could become Fresh Sound FSR 5014. Claude termed the Bud Powell/Jerome Kern program, My finest recorded musical moments.
Ruth Price (look under the disc!) gave us the first date of 2008 and we used that evening as an opportunity for an, Chuck and oe to enjoy themselves. It was a prelude to three demanding days: the rehearsal and recording of the film music of Ralph Rainger. My thoughts were so riveted on those three days that I obviously did not focus on what I had heard. After all, they were not musical strangers to me. I used a Sony TCD-D8 recorder. Transfer was made from DAT to disc and put in one of four magazines for the Kenwood Compact Disc player in the trunk of my 1989 Volvo 240GL... with over 275,000 miles! I do most of my listening on this very good sound system before mixing, after mixing and during the mastering sessions with Bernie Grundman until I get it right! It has a high end receiver, powerful amplifier, graphic equalizer and four speakers that surround me... better than most home systems. Oh, yes: Im not interrupted by the telephone or doorbell. I rely on it.
It hibernated in magazine number four... for two years until one Friday March 20I tired of listening to the other things (these magazines hold ten discs) and popped it in. I was driving down Sepulveda Boulevard to Redondo Beach at the time (passing within a half mile of the famed 0 Pier Avenue) and the first thing playing was Buddy De Franco (!) with Sonny Clark; then something I did not immediately recognize. What is this? I asked myself. Then, it hit me. This is good. This is really good. This has to come out! I exclaimed to no one, my dog Count (named for Candoli) not being along that day. an was incredulous. You recorded it?! I had been rather inconspicuous sitting in the back of the darkened B.
To underscore the professionalism of the band, it arrived three hours before the eight oclock start to run down all of the music. an knows I always want lots of solo space for bass and drums; Chuck and oe are featured throughout, quite probably more than ever before.
My urologist Stan Brosman (he once played second trumpet in the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra) is a huge Jan Lundgren fan and had never heard him in person. He pushed aside a mountain of yearend paperwork and arrived just after thelights went down low, taking a seat up front so he could concentrate on the pianists hands. These guys are fabulous... you would think they had been playing together for years! Herman Moreno, longtime friend/knowledgeable enthusiast, agreed.What an evening! It just doesnt get any better. This treasure could still be buried in the trunk of my automobile. With apologies to Mother Goose, I feel like Little Jack Horner, who put in his thumb and pulled out a plum. What a lucky boy am I!
-Dick Bank (August, 2011)
I prefer a live album... absolutely. I'd rather put up with back round sound and imperfect balancethat sort of thin and et somethin more inspired out of it.
Buddy De Franco