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Nils Landgren – Eternal Beauty

Not only the trombonist Nils Landgren has built up an enormous fan base over the decades – with his Funk Unit, with big bands and alongside the greats of jazz music – so has the vocalist Nils Landgren. His clear, throaty and yet mellow voice is very distinctive, and perfect for ballads. Apart from on his Christmas anthology “Christmas With My friends,” it could also be admired on “The Moon, The Stars And You” that came out two years ago. The moonstruck nature of jazz was the theme on that record, and both the choice of songs and the list of guests, from Joe Sample and Steve Gadd to Joao Bosco and Richard Galliano, were colourful. What is more, Landgren put together a rhythm section here that understood each other intuitively. Alongside his companion of many years Lars Danielsson on the bass and cello, and the Viktoria Tolstoy drummer Rasmus Kihlberg, he also added Michael Wollny as a consummate sensitive piano accompanist to the mix.

“Never change a winning team” they say, and so it was that for his new vocal and ballad project, Landgren once again reverted to this select band of brothers – with the further addition of guitarist Johan Norberg, with whom Landgren has performed on and off for decades. “It is my dream team, and one that I hope will play together for a long time,” says Landgren of this group. It is also ideal for the approach that Landgren pursued on “Eternal Beauty”: “I wanted to make a really homogenous record – just us playing the simple and beautiful melodies simply and beautifully.” The album title indicates the direction that the songs chosen by Landgren, Wollny, Norberg and producer Siggi Loch took: “The music and lyrics had to fit us, and they had to be songs that are eternal for me, personally.”

It is a criterion that most of the songs on “Eternal Beauty” will certainly also meet for many listeners, from George Harrison’s “Isn’t It A Pity” to Mr. Mister’s “Broken Wings” on through to “We don’t Need Another Hero”, made popular by Tina Turner. And not just the hits adapted from pop, no, also intelligent jazz ballads the likes of “One More Angel” from the jazz bassist John Patitucci and “Another Kind Of Blue” by the New York-based German guitarist Torsten de Winkel. Michael Wollny wrote the title track together with Eva Svensson, Esbjörn Svensson’s widow.

So it is no coincidence that “Eternal Beauty” is also an homage to Esbjörn, without that being said explicitly anywhere on the record,” says Landgren. “For me, Esbjörn is one of the greatest musicians of our age. And although he isn’t around anymore, we still kind of communicate. I think of him a lot, and fortunately I’m really close to Eva and the kids. Our families are very close. That’s why I wanted to record some numbers from him to. Johan’s track “One Frozen Moment” also alludes to the moment when we heard of his passing.”

It only makes sense that the album ends with Svensson’s “Love Is Real,” the song that will without the shadow of a doubt be one of the first and most important when and if a Great European Songbook is ever compiled. But one thing is important to Landgren: “Even if our thoughts went out to Esbjörn, Eternal Beauty is anything but a gloomy album. He wouldn’t want that either. All the lyrics revolve around love and relationships, but they aren’t onedimensional. Like James Taylor’s “Don’t Let Me Be Alone Tonight,” which I played once in Salzau with Michael Brecker, Pat Metheny and Esbjörn. I love that song. And the age-old folk number Green Fields. You can even interpret that as an environmental song if you are that way inclined.”

So, much is left up to this talented team that Landgren trusts without reservation: “We did have an idea of how we could play each of the songs, but we didn’t prescribe much and we arranged them very sparingly, because with these guys the musical concept arises when we meet. When we start to play, the magic begins.”

01 Love Of My Life (Nils Landgren) 2:51
02 Another Kind Of Blue (Torsten de Winkel) 3:21
03 Broken Wings (Steven George, John Lang & Richard Page) 4:08
04 Don‘t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight* (James Taylor) 4:38
05 Green Fields (Richard Dehr, Terry Gilkyson & Frank Miller) 4:24
06 One Frozen Moment (Johan Norberg) 3:13
07 Eternal Beauty* (Michael Wollny / Eva Svensson) 4:01
08 Isn‘t It A Pity (George Harrison) 3:57
09 Get Here (Brenda Russel) 4:20
10 One More Angel (John Patitucci) 3:36
11 We Don‘t Need Another Hero (Terry Britten & Graham Lyle) 4:38
12 For Your Love [Quem Me Dera]
(Ivan Lins & Vitor Martins / English lyrics by Lisa Nilsson) 4:41
13 Dear Diary (Esbjörn Svensson / Per Holknekt) 4:33
14 Love Is Real* (Esbjörn Svensson / Josh Haden) 3:32

Nils Landgren / trombone & vocals
Michael Wollny / piano
Johan Norberg / guitars
Lars Danielsson / upright bass & cello on 03
Rasmus Kihlberg / drums
Lisa Nilsson / vocals on For Your Love

Produced by Siggi Loch with Nils Landgren & Johan Norberg

Strings on * arranged and performed by Örjan Högberg
Recorded by Arne Schumann, August 26 – 28, 2013 at Hansa Studios Berlin
Additional recordings by Johan Norberg at Krubaston Studio Stockholm
Mixed by Arne Schumann and mastered by Klaus Scheuermann

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Bugge Wesseltoft – Everybody Loves Angels

There can be very few musicians who are capable of making silence as audibly vivid as the Norwegian Bugge Wesseltoft, in particular in his solo piano recordings. For twenty years, the most successful of these, “It’s Snowing On My Piano”, has been treasured as a haven of wintry stillness and contemplation. It is a classic album. Listeners all over Europe have responded to it by giving it a permanent place in their lives. So now Bugge Wesseltoft and producer Siggi Loch have returned to the original concept of “Snowing” in “Everybody Loves Angels”. The title is a metaphor for the kind of weightless ease which the music conveys; and this time it’s not just for winter…

The success story started in 1997. Bugge Wesseltoft had just released the album “New Conception Of Jazz” on his own newly-founded label Jazzland. That album broke new ground, combining electronic sounds and grooves with his unmistakeably limpid, transparent piano playing, and the result was a timeless work of art. It left an indelible mark on subsequent generations of pianists, and established him as one of the most important innovators in jazz. ACT label boss Siggi Loch had been following Wesseltoft with interest for quite some time, and made him an offer: to bring a very different side of his musicianship to the fore, and to record a completely acoustic solo piano set “with Christmas in mind” for the fledgling ACT label.

Wesseltoft is vehemently opposed the overcommercilisation of Christmas, and yet he did find himself attracted to the idea of recording music which would restore quietness to times in which everything is getting inexorably louder. So Bugge Wesseltoft and Siggi Loch met up at Oslo’s Rainbow studio. With the pianist’s little daughter Maren perched on his lap, Wesseltoft started to improvise on Christmas songs and folk melodies. That first solo piano recording was to be the most successful – it achieved the highest sales in the history of ACT. As the popular German newspaper WAZ wrote at the time: “In its almost unworldly beauty, It’s Snowing On My Piano is the greatest Christmas CD that jazz has ever produced.”

Now, twenty years later, the world is a very different place. A non-stop flow of virtual data, and ever more complex and opaque structures and contexts govern people’s everyday lives. It is a world in which the loudest often comes out on top. So, more than ever, people long for a place of sanctuary where they can just have the chance to slow down. Bugge Wesseltoft, who worked for a time in a clinic looking after traumatised patients, has a special insight into the power of music to bring solace to disturbed minds. That is why he was so enthusiastic about the idea of finding another quiet place to record “Everybody Loves Angels”. This time they went to the rugged beauty of the Lofoten region, and to the largest wooden church in Norway. “LofotKatedralen” is also a concert venue and has a superb Steinway piano.

The location for the recording has a particular significance for Wesseltoft: “Over the years”, he says, “nature has become an increasingly important source of inspiration for me. In this place there are moments when I experience the feeling of being part of something much bigger. There was no place which could have felt more natural for this recording than Lofoten. The area is beautiful but also harsh, as is life here, just as it was for my great-grandfather, who was born here. To make a recording in the unbelievable LofotKatedralen brought all these things together for me.”

In his interpretations of songs by Lennon/McCartney, Paul Simon, Johann Sebastian Bach, Bruno Mars and several others, Wesseltoft has a way of shaping the sound of notes and chords, and of opening up spaces between notes that is uniquely his. As he plays, he does not follow any fixed plan, metre or arrangement; what happens is completely subservient to intuition in the moment. Every sound stands on its own merits. It is as if Wesseltoft is listening his way through into new spaces that open up for him, which then lead on to other doors through which he and the listener can step together. This world of contemplation is a musical counterweight to the zapping mentality of our time. The slowness and the pared-down state of the music permit listeners to find their own stories, colours and shades, to enter into spaces which they will want to visit again and again – and in any season.

01 Es sungen drei Engel (traditional / Bugge Wesseltoft) 5:09
02 Bridge Over Troubled Water (Paul Simon) 8:32
03 Koral (Johann Sebastian Bach / Bugge Wesseltoft) 6:26
04 Angel (Jimi Hendrix) 5:27
05 Reflecting (Bugge Wesseltoft) 1:55
06 Morning Has Broken (Cat Stevens) 5:20
07 Salme (Christoph Ernst Friedrich Weyse / Bugge Wesseltoft) 4:50
08 Blowing In The Wind (Bob Dylan) 5:59
09 Angie (Mick Jagger & Keith Richards) 3:38
10 Locked Out Of Heaven (Bruno Mars, Philip Lawrence & Ari Levine) 4:13
11 Let It Be (John Lennon & Paul McCartney) 4:46

Bugge Wesseltoft / piano

Produced by Siggi Loch with the artist