Svenska Svänga: Hot Diggity Dåg!

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WP 2019 - 2SVENSK JAZZHISTORIA Vol. 3: RYTM OCH SWING / HANDY: St. Louis Blues / Folke Eriksberg, Olle Sahlin, gtr; Thore Jederby, bs / JEDERBY: Swinging Around.* WALLER-RAZAF: Honeysuckle Rose+ / Swing Swingers, incl. *Thore Ehrling, +Gösta Redig, tpt; Ziles Görling, t-sax; Åke Brandes, membranophone; Eriksberg, gtr; Jederby, bs / JOHNSTON-BURKE: One, Two, Button Your Shoe / Bosse Rosendahl & his Orkester / S. WILLIAMS-GRAHAM: I Ain’t Got Nobody / Sune Lundwalls Dance Orkester / REDLAND: Sax-Cobble.1 Snöfall [Slowdarkness] 2 / Charles Redland, a-sax/cl med Swingband, incl. 1Herbert Welander, 2Rune Ander, tpt; Sven Larsson, t-sax; Sahlin, gtr / ELLINGTON: Jubilee Stomp / Nisse Lind, acc & his Hot Kvartett: Emil Iwring, vln; Birger Larsson, gtr; Henry Lundin, bs / MACK-DABNEY-BROWN: Shine / Sven Stiberg, gtr; Thore Swanerud, pno / BAXTER: I’m a Ding Dong Daddy From Dumas / Bob Larnys Orkester / COSLOW: Jammin.’ AHLERT: There’s Frost on the Moon. C. & S. WILLIAMS: Royal Garden Blues. BERLIN: Alexander’s Ragtime Band* / Sonora Swing Swingers, incl. Gösta Törner, tpt; Görling, t-sax; Folke Eriksberg, gtr; Sven Arefeldt, *Mabel Albins, voc / HANDY: St. Louis Blues. FAGERLUND-FRYMAN: Cocktail-Swing / Åke Fagerlunds Lisebergorkester Göteberg / JANTHE: Sven Janthat Spelar en Egen Komposition / Sven Janthe, pno / SCHONBERGER: Whispering / Per Edberg, Erik Frank, acc / LUNCEFORD-CHAPLIN-CAHN: Rhythm is Our Business / Whispering Band / WARREN-DIXON: Nagasaki / Lulle Elboj, a-sax/cl & Orkester / HUDSON: The Maid’s Night Off / Radiotjanst Dansorkester [Sune Waldimirs Orkester] incl. Leon Liljequist, Gösta “Chicken” Törnblad, tpt; Nils “Banjo-Lasse” Larsson, gtr / GÖRLING: Hülphurs Stomp. MEISEL: Im Nordexpress! / Arne Hülphurs Orkester, incl. Gösta “Stam-Pelle” Petersson, Torner, tpt; Tony Mason, a-sax/cl; Zilas Görling, t-sax; George Vernon, tb; Evert Hedén, pno / McHUGH-GASKILL: I Can’t Believe That You’re in Love With Me / Sven Arefeldt, voc med orkester, incl. Torner, tpt; Julius Jacobsen, tb; Tore Westlund, cl; Nisse Lind, pno; Thore Jederby, bs / SCHONBERGER: Whispering. M. WILLIAMS-PARISH: Corrine Corrina. FURBER-BRAHAM: Limehouse Blues. GAY-FURBER-ROSE: Lambeth Walk / Håkan von Eichwalds Orkester mit sångtrio, incl. Thore Ehrling, Åke Johanssen-Jangell, tpt; Olle Blomquist, Ove Rönn, cl/t-sax; Eric Ekholm, gtr / AXELSON-PADDOCK: Swing Mamma, Swing Pappa / Dansorkester med Refr Sång / L. POLLACK: That’s A-Plenty / Nisse Linds Hot Trio / SWANSTROM-HANLEY: Twenty-Four Hours a Day / Mabel Albins, voc w/Thore Ehrlings Orkester / GAILLARD: Flat Foot Floogee. EHRLING: Royal Strut / Thore Ehrlings Orkester / LENNART-MALOTTE: Ferdinand Ferdinand / Charles Redlands Orkester / AXELSON-PADDOCK: Slå Dej Los Och Ta’ Semester / Stan Axelsons Orkester / AXELSON-PADDOCK: En Swing I Det Gröna. AREFELDT-JOKEM: Skå Jag, Skå Jag? WARREN-MERCER: Jeepers Creepers / Dansorkester / FRIED-SPENCER: Broadway Rose / Rialto Orchestra / WALLER-RAZAF; Honeysuckle Rose / Staffan Lintons Qvartett / M. WILLIAMS-PARISH: Corrine Corrina / Åke Fagerlunds Orkester / SAMSON: Swing in the Spring. ELLINGTON-BIGARD: Mood Indigo. ELLINGTON: Lost in Meditation. SAMSON-FOLKE; Rytm och Swing* / Sam Samsons Orkester w/*Folke Erbo, voc / BASIE: One O’Clock Jump. EMIL IWRING: A Bit of Swing / Swedish Hot Quintet / SYLBAIN-JOKEM: Jag Hår en Litem Radiola / Alice Babs, voc w/Union Orkester / BROOKS: Some of These Days / Nisse Linds Hot Trio w/Alice Babs, voc / BARRIS-CLIFFORD: I Surrender, Dear / Allan Johansson, pno / E. HAYES: Swingin’ in the Promised Land. McHUGH-FIELDS: Baltimore. DURHAM-MEYERS: Out the Window / Arne Hülphurs Orkester / Caprice CAP22039

Those of us who have investigated the state of jazz in European countries from the late 1920s through the late ‘30s know that France came to closest to getting the right feeling for the loose rhythm of the music as well as producing very fine solos, but that isn’t surprising when you consider how many great American jazzmen visited or even stayed in France, at least up until the Nazis invaded it in 1940. The British tried, bless their hearts, but didn’t really come close to the real thing until the mid-1940s when such homegrown talents as George Shearing came to prominence; too many of them were bitten by the Trad Jazz bug and produced a sort of stiff ragtime feel well into the late 1950s. And the Germans were even stiffer.

Yet the real surprise country was Sweden, and the reason for the surprise is that very few legitimate jazz musicians played there. Louis Armstrong played Denmark in 1933 and the Boswell Sisters sang in the Netherlands in 1934 and ’35, but neither country came as close to a true jazz aesthetic as Sweden did, and they did so solely through the influence of American jazz recordings. Of course, the most astonishing and original of these musicians was 15-year-old vocalist Alice Babs, so drenched in the style of the Duke Ellington Orchestra that she growled and smeared her way through her choruses like Cootie Williams, but as this set proves a good portion of their instrumentalists weren’t really bad at all. Yes, sometimes it’s more of an approximation than a clear print, but they tried their best and, next to the French, came the closest of any other European nation.

Or, at least, they had definitely reached this point by the late 1930s, the period covered in this well-packed 2-CD set. This is Vol. 3, and I haven’t been lucky enough to have heard the first two volumes in the series. Still, what we have here is not only very enjoyable but lively and unpretentious, much like French jazz of the same period.

In addition to American jazz, the late-‘30s Swedes were also heavily influenced by Django Reinhardt and Django’s main influence, Eddie Lang, as is evidenced by the hot guitar playing of Folke Eriksberg in St. Louis Blues and especially by Sven Stiberg in Shine. But nearly all the soloists play well-conceived, consistently good solos, and if they seem a bit obviously influenced by Armstrong, Hawkins and some of the Ellington musicians, so be it. Yes, occasionally you get a stiff solo (generally from the pianists), but what impressed me more than anything was how loose the rhythm sections, particularly the drummers, were compared to the Brits of the same period. It’s really quite amazing. Alas, I don’t have full information to give you because I didn’t have access to download the booklet with the audio tracks, but just listen to the “Swing Swingers” drummer on tracks 2 and 3 of the first CD and you’ll get my drift. The rhythm doesn’t plod like a stiff-legged dancer; it glides with ease.

Most of the tracks here have gotten some form of clean-up in terms of surface noise and crackle, but several others, particularly the small duos or trios with guitar and bass, are quite noisy indeed. This is not too much of a detriment, however, and by the time you reach Sune Lundwalls Dance Orkester’s hot treatment of I Ain’t Got Nobody, you’re hooked. This one features a hot accordion player whose name was not provided to me. I’d take an educated guess that it was the remarkable Nisse Lind, whose Hot Trio and Quartet backed young Alice Babs on a slew of her early records from 1939 and 1940. Lind had quite a high reputation within Sweden at the time and, though his playing isn’t quite as sophisticated as the late-1940s jazz accordion records of George Shearing and Art van Damme, it was clearly miles above any other accordion player in any country, even the U.S. Sadly, Lind was a heavy drinker whose career was in shambles by the mid-1940s, but the tracks listed here under his own name will give you a good idea of his excellence, particularly his virtuosic rendition of Duke Ellington’s Jubilee Stomp. Holy crap, was he good here, and Emil Iwring’s hot violin will remind you strongly of Stéphane Grappelli. The accordion duo of Per Edberg and Eric Frank, who play Whispering, aren’t quite on Lind’s high level, but they’re still clearly fun to listen to.

And just as soon as I complained of some of the pianists, here comes the excellent Thore Swanerud backing Stiberg in Shine. They sound very much like the records that Django made with Grappelli on piano. In Ding Dong Daddy From Dumas, the Bob Larnys Orkester is a bit stiffer than most of the other bands, but the hot vocal isn’t bad and neither is the tenor sax solo. This, alas, is one of the muddiest and noisiest of the band recordings on the set. I guess they couldn’t do too much with it; in addition to the muddiness, there is also some “blasting” on the high notes. They seem to have cut it off before it ends. The Sonora Swing Swingers, an ad hoc orchestra assembled in the studio of the record label (Sonora, one of the bigger Swedish jazz labels), features surprisingly idiomatic English-language vocals by one Sven Arefeldt.

Like many foreign jazz records of the day—England and France were certainly no exception, not even within the famed Hot Club Quintet—there is a preponderance of older tunes from the 1910s and ‘20s, among them St. Louis Blues, I Ain’t Got Nobody, Whispering, Nagasaki, Royal Garden Blues, Corinne Corrina, Limehouse Blues, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, That’s A-Plenty, Some of These Days and Baltimore, but also a fair amount of contemporary pop and jazz numbers like Jammin’, There’s Frost on the Moon, Flat Foot Floogee, Jeepers Creepers, One O’Clock Jump and Out the Window as well as a fair number of originals by the Swedes themselves, thus I feel that this is a good representation of the era. Programmed the way they are on these two discs, however, they make for varied and entertaining listening as well as instructive of how far the Swedes had come in their little isolated but obviously thriving jazz community. Remember, this was well before shortwave radio could get much real jazz into the country, and I doubt that they had access to the few American films featuring such real jazz artists as Armstrong, Ellington or Fats Waller. Charles Redland’s Snöfall bears no resemblance to Claude Thornhill’s more famous piece of the same name (without the umlaut), yet it’s an attractive piece featuring a good, Hawk-influenced tenor solo by Sven Larsson.

It’s easy to say that the “Whispering Band,” which doesn’t whisper at all and whose members are unknown to me, doesn’t play Rhythm is Our Business as well as Jimmie Lunceford, but it’s hard to name another band, black or white, American or foreign, that came closer. Another good tenor sax solo is heard in this one, too. Another good example of how attentive the Swedes of that period were to American jazz is the recording of The Maid’s Night Off. This was a recording by an obscure black orchestra, Willie Lewis and his Entertainers, on a fairly obscure Pathé 78, but the Radiotjanst Dansorkester does a surprisingly fine job with it (in the same key and a little faster than the original, although for whatever reason the first chorus seems to have been cut off as the record fades in). And hey, we get a chance to hear “Chicken” Törnblad play trumpet on this one! You GO, Chicken!

Miff Görling’s original, Hülphurs Stomp, sounds much like those “killer diller” arrangements that Will Hudson used to write for the Casa Loma, Tommy Dorsey and early Lunceford bands, and the unified playing of the sax section is a true delight. By contrast, the equally uptempo Im Nordexpress! is almost beyond category, an arrangement featuring some whole-tone and chromatic passages along with its peppy principal tune, and the growl trumpet solo will knock your socks off. Between you and me, however, I could have lived without Sven Arefeldt’s vapid vocal on I Can’t Believe That You’re in Love With Me or the vocal trio on Håkan von Eichwald’s version of Whispering. There aren’t even any really outstanding solos on these to save them. The Eichwald band’s rendition of Corrine Corrina is also pretty tame, although brief but excellent bass and drum solos, and a good tenor sax chorus by Olle Blomquist, save that one. Interestingly, however, the same band’s Lambeth Walk is a live performance (probably an aircheck, with audible crowd noise throughout), and in this environment the band is considerably looser, with a nice, swinging piano and good trumpet solo. The unidentified musicians in the generically-titled “Dansorkester” who play Swing Mamma, Swing Pappa are loose, relaxed, and having a ball.

Nisse Lind returns to play the snot out of That’s A-Plenty and the Sonora Swing Swingers do a nice job on Alexander’s Ragtime Band with an acceptable vocal by one Mabel Albins. Albins returns on the Bob Crosby-influenced arrangement of Twenty-Four Hours a Day, which also features a crackling trumpet solo and fine clarinet. The same band, sans Albins but with a vocal trio from within the band, have fun with Slim Gaillard’s surprise hit about a hooker with the clap, Flat Foot Floogee (“Floogee” was Harlem street slang for a floozie, or a hooker, and the “floy floy” was gonorrhea).

Indeed, as you continue to listen to this set, you continue to enjoy nearly every track for one reason or another, not least of all for the complete lack of pretension by the musicians. If you’ve ever seen the clip from Alice Babs’ first film, Swing It, Magistern!, where she starts singing, twirling her finger in the air and leading the whole class in a songfest, you’ll understand why. The Swedes were clearly trying to have fun and shut out the hideous noise being created outside their borders by the Germans and Italians. Fortunately for them, Sweden—for whatever reason—was spared invasion whereas Denmark and Norway were not. Had they invaded, the Nazis would surely have placed many of these musicians and especially Babs, whose youth and energetic hipness took the country by storm in the early ‘40s, under house arrest if not send them to the concentration camps. It was that bad back then, folks.

By the second CD, even the pianists have improved their swing—listen to the very fine Staffan Linton on Honeysuckle Rose—and yes, we even get young Alice Babs in two vocals, on Jag Hår en Litem Radiola with the Union Orkester and Some of These Days with Nisse Lind as well as a Duke Ellington rarity, Lost in Meditation, and a couple of Count Basie numbers, his theme One O’Clock Jump and Eddie Durham’s Out the Window. But with a few exceptions the whole thing is just so enjoyable that you almost don’t want it to stop. Go for it!

—© 2019 Lynn René Bayley

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