Lars Gullin (bs), Bengt-Arne Wallin (tp), Ake Persson (tb), Putte Wickmann (cl), Arne Domnérus (as, cl), Rolf Billberg (as), Bjarne Nerem (ts), Rune Öfwermann, Lars Bagge (p), Rune Gustafsson (g), Georg Riedel (b), Bert Dahlander (d)
Reference: FSRCD 841_4
Bar code: 8427328608411
4 CD Box Set including a 36-page booklet with comprehensive essay written by Ray Comiskey, session details, photos, original art & liner notes.
Lars Gullin (1928-1976) was not only the greatest of the golden generation of jazz musicians who first put Sweden on the global jazz scene in the 1950s, but also one of the best baritone saxophonists the music has ever seen. Lyrical, imaginative, remarkably creative as a player and prolific composer, he forged a uniquely personal and instantly recognisable style out of the rapidly absorbed influences of Gerry Mulligan and Lee Konitz and the folk and classical music of his own country. International recognition was swift. In 1954 he was the first non-American to win a Down Beat poll when he was voted New Baritone Sax Star. With Mulligan and Serge Chaloff he helped to establish the baritone firmly as a front-rank solo instrument in jazz.
Despite a life occasionally beset by personal problems, throughout his career he produced music that was consistently good and sometimes sublime. And during 1956-1960, the period covered in this collection, he was at his peak. Surrounded by outstanding members of that Scandinavian golden generation, including Rolf Billberg, Åke Persson, Arne Domnérus, Jan Allan, Rune Öfwermann and Bengt-Arne Wallin, he made a series of recordings that stand as testimony to his multiple gifts as a player, composer and arranger.
"Im willing to bet that there arent enough fans out there of Swedish baritone saxist Lars Gullin (1928-1978) to fill a Volkswagen Beetle. His legacy has at least two strikes against him; 1) he spent most of his time in Sweden, not exactly a mecca for American fans and 2) he was a drug addict that ultimately ended his life prematurely at 48. Here, youve got four discs of the Gerry Mulligan-inspired saxist and if youre a fan of bop that is alternatively hip, cool and swinging, youre gonna fall in love with this warm-toned gent.
Hes found here in a collection of recordings from Sweden that find him in bands ranging from duos, trios, quartets, quintets, sextets, septets, octets and big band. Ranging in size, the duets with alto saxist Rolf Billberg create cooing takes of Sweet and Lovely and My Old Flame. The trio team of Gullin with Rune Gustafsson/g and Claes Lindroth/b is suavely swinging, with Gullin filling the room with a bel canto sound on I Love You and Whats New? Gulllin does wonders with Lover Man and does a surprisingly uptempo take of You Go To My Head that hits it just right in a quartet setting. A pair of quintet sets have him with Rolf Billberg/ts and Poul Godske/p on a hip Lover Come Back to Me or bringing along Jan Allan/p and Rune Gustafsson/g with a clever Icarus On The Moon.
A septet session with Arne Domnerus/cl cruises joyfully on How About You? and he seems to revel in the Octet format, as many of the sessions are in this mode, with his own compositions Fedja Fine Together, and Baritonome giving hints of Miles Davis Birth of the Cool sessions. A single sesson with Gosta Theselilus and His Orchestra has a heavyweight jabbing Lover Come Back To Me and a wondrous Yesterdays.
I know that usually you dont associate swinging jazz from 50s Sweden, but trust me on this one-its a real treat!"
-George W. Harris (June 29, 2015)
"Lars Gullins regular reissues are a reminder of a baritone sound that was a thing of rare beauty. His son Peter, who died in 2003, was the only one who came close to that unique timbre and concept. Tenderness on Dragon 222 is a good example of the young mans work a blindfold test would fool many. Few soloists have specialised on the instrument but Gullin, who studied to be a concert pianist, is an important member of that exclusive group. His relaxed, legato sound and long lyrical lines owed little to contemporaries like Cecil Payne and Serge Chaloff and as far as Leo Parker was concerned, they might have been playing different instruments. Initially influenced by Gerry Mulligans work with the Miles Davis nonet he soon absorbed the chromatic and rhythmically daring approach of both Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh.
Together with a 1960 Nils Lindberg session (Sax Appeal Dragon 220) this reissue features some of Gullins finest work. He is showcased in a couple of big band settings but Fresh Sound concentrates here on his outstanding work with a variety of small groups; the duets with Rolf Billberg (My Old Flame and Sweet And Lovely) are a particular delight. His long-time colleague Ake Persson makes several notable contributions, especially on So What and After Eight P.M. The former a Love Me Or Leave Me contrafact was a Mulligan original introduced on a 1950 Chubby Jackson date which became better known later as Apple Core. Eight P.M. is a gentle stroll through the stimulating harmonies of All The Things You Are - a favourite Gullin sequence. This really was a Golden Age for Swedish jazz because the intimate trumpet of Jan Allan and the hard-driving John Williams-like piano of Rune Ofwermann also add considerably to the success of this reissue. Incidentally, the attractive Taint No Use credited to Lane and Magidson on the sleevenote is actually an Al Cohn original which has a fine Meredith dAmbrosio lyric not heard here of course."
-Gordon Jack (Jazz Journal, February 2015)
"This boxed set of four CDs contains a good portion of Swedish saxist Lars Gullins recordings from 1956 to 1960. These might be called his most successful years, as drugs and other hindrances meant that his output was seriously diminished in quality afterwards. Strongly influenced by the style that Gerry Mulligan established in the 40s and 50s, Gullin had a similar supple approach and smooth tone. He had tried out various instruments in earlier years but settled on the baritone saxophone from the late 1940s onwards, and established himself as one of the foremost exponents of the instrument. He was also a significant composer and arranger, favouring the cool sounds created by composer- arranger Tadd Dameron and by the album Birth of The Cool. Gullins association with LeeKonitz was an important strand in his playing.
The two versions of Darn That Dream on the last CD illustrate the delicacy that Lars could bring to the baritone saxophone.As with British jazz of the same period, there was a very slight uncertainty in the playing, which arose from an awareness of how hard it would be for European jazz to overcome the supremacy of American jazz, despite the talents of the European jazzers. Musicians like Lars Gullin showed how that domination might be overcome."
Tony Augarde -The Jazz Rag
Issue #135, Winter 2015
"You couldnt get much further from jazzs birthplace in New Orleans, Louisiana, than the Swedish island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea, but it was there in the town of Visby in 1928 that one of the musics greatest exponents of the baritone saxophone was born.
Lars Gullin astonished all those around him as a child accordionist, but when he moved from his home island to Stockholm in 1947 his reputation grew first as a pianist and then as a baritonist after 1949 when he first heard Gerry Mulligan on the Birth of the Cool sessions.
He played baritone horn with altoist Arne Domnerus and trumpeter Rolf Ericson in Stockholm from 1951, also working and recording with visiting US musicians like Clifford Brown, Zoot Sims, James Moody and the very influential saxophonist Lee Konitz.
By 1953 he was leading his own group and by 54 his Swedish recordings had achieved such popularity in the US among jazz listeners that, despite being based in Stockholm and having never been Stateside, he won the Best Newcomer award from the prestigious Downbeat magazine and had Swedish-made records released across the US on renowned labels like Atlantic and Contemporary.
His subsequent career was much despoiled by narcotics, although his 1954 visit to England included a rapturous response from London audiences at the Royal Festival Hall More Gullin! More Gullin! they shouted after his performance and the inspiration to write two of his most memorable tunes, Soho Blues and the beautifully soulful Manchester Fog.
He spent time in Copenhagen he recorded a fine album with Archie Shepp there in 1963 settled in a forest home in southern Sweden and devoted himself to composing, sometimes for jazz musicians and symphony orchestra, and died in 1976 having just typed: The heart is the seat of my musical thoughts and the brain is their rhythmic laboratory.
The four CDs of this compelling Fresh Sounds Records compendium of Gullin tracks brings together his complete studio recordings of the late 50s, when his artistry was at its apex and he was recording regularly with other outstanding Swedish virtuosi like altoist Rolf Billberg and Domnerus, trombonist Ake Persson and trumpeter Jan Allan.
The selection is peppered by US songbook standards, but by far the most engaging performances are those of Gullin compositions that reach deeply into Swedish folk traditions.
Listen to Gullins serenely buoyant and meandering solo on his original Fedja followed by Domneruss similar light-touched chorus. You almost forget who is the baritonist and who is the altoist, so twin-like are both reedmens featherweight sounds and conceptions.
Or the beautifully and sadly melodic Ma, deeply un-American in its timbre and including a softly tranquil solo by Gullin. Or there is the vibrant Perntz, full of life and unsuppresible optimism, the tune Gullin dedicated to his Stockholm psychiatrist.
On the third and fourth CDs there are more powerful Gullin themes. Allan and Billberg shine on the March and April dates, in particular on The Flight made with a nine-piece band, where Gullin takes off supremely and fizzes aerially alongside his baritone sax confere Rune Falk and Billberg in Scandinavian splendour.
Or there is Icarus on the Moon in a quintet with Allan, who plays with an appealing lyricism in a gently-poised chorus before Gullin enters for a beautifully fluid solo which seems to levitate in the Stockholm air.
Gullin and Billberg came together again in the octet sessions of 1959 for four more Gullin tunes. The aptly titled Fine Together includes some fine work by tenorist Harry Backlund and pianist Lars Bagge, Gullins baritone sings amiably through The Black Rose and his Merlin is also affable and warm-noted.
In 1960 the octet reassembled for the February sessions that produced Gullins The Yellow Leaves Love to the Earth and the poetry wasnt only in the title.
The horns harmonies and Gullins finely honed solo beside Bagges comping piano are powerfully evocative.
The jaunty Blue Mail has some striking choruses from trumpeter Bengt-Arne Wallin and Billberg, and Baritonome has some more impressive Billberg and Backlund.
The Swedes had their own rich pool of jazz musicianship, that was for sure.
The penultimate Gullin tune is the potently full and busy Stockholm Street with Gullin in confident and unique gait striding down its centre with his ever-talented compatriots, creating their very own sounds in their very own way, to which Lars Gullin undoubtedly gave their own excellence."
Chris Searle -Morning Star (April 14, 2015)
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