We've had a rather nice Indian summer here in New York, but the past few days have been gray and on the mournful side, and I can't say I find this displeasing, especially since my current soundtrack of choice is Jan Johansson's fittingly melancholy Jazz på Svenska.
I'd never heard of Johansson until a nice elf in Stockholm sent me the CD following an email exchange in which I'd mentioned my love for Benny Andersson's folk album, 1987's Klinga Mina Klockor. Turns out that in the ’60s Johansson recorded LPs in which he gave the jazz treatment to folk tunes from Sweden (Jazz på Svenska), Russia (Jazz på Ryska) and Hungary (Jazz på Ungerska). Johansson was—and, I gather, still is, despite his death in 1968 at age 37—considered one of Sweden's top jazz musicians. But he also had genuine mass appeal: He wrote the theme for Pippi Långstrump, better known here as Pippi Longstocking, and Jazz på Svenska has sold a total of 250,000 albums in Sweden—not bad considering there's only 9 million people in the entire country.
(Note to jazzheads: My colleague K. Leander Williams pointed out some similarities between Jazz på Svenska and John Lewis's Modern Jazz Quartet, particularly the Django and Fontessa albums. More stuff to check out.)
Jan Johansson "Visa från Utanmyra" and "Polska från Medelpad" (from Jazz på Svenska)
And of course I can't resist posting songs by Benny Andersson. Note that "Efter Regnet" was covered (as "After the Rain") by Anne-Sofie von Otter. And while I'm at it, let's go for maximum geek-out with excerpts from Benny and Björn's Kristina från Duvemåla, a musical based on Vilhelm Moberg's cycle The Emigrants, which tells the tale of Swedes leaving their country for the wilds of Minnesota in the 19th century. I've been waiting for it to come to the US for a good decade, but even I have to admit it's not the easiest sell here, as it is light years away from Mamma Mia and even Chess. Of course I had to get the cast album when it came out, despite the fact that it's a three-CD set in Swedish (except for a couple of tracks, one of which I'm posting) and with no translation.
Benny Andersson "Inledningsvisa" and "Efter Regnet" (from Klinga Mina Klockor)
Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus "A Sunday in Battery Park" and "Missfall" (from Kristina från Duvemåla)