Monday, November 15, 2010

The Idea of North

There are few pleasures of the aesthetic variety that match the personal discovery of an artist hitherto unknown to you. Lars Gullin was a superb baritone saxophonist from Sweden who was nothing more to me than a name that invariably popped up in references to Scandinavian jazz of the pre-ECM era. I can't exactly recall how I stumbled across this clip, but I'm just glad I did; Gullin had a rare gift that was hidden from me for too long. His mellifluous tone and lyrical leanings have much in common with peak-period Gerry Mulligan, but Gullin's extraordinary composure lends him distinction. In the second part of this too brief clip he's joined by (presumably, as per posting ID) saxophonist Rolf Billberg, another mystery to me. And he too makes an immediate first impression in the handful of seconds that he's featured. Billberg's also been influenced by American cool school players of the 1959s -- in his case Lee Konitz -- but like Gullin, he transcends mere imitation through musicianly focus. Their duet is brief but glorious.
Now to find more of their work and move on to other (to me) shadowy figures like pianist Bengt Hallberg, a favorite of Miles Davis. Just what I need in my life, a new jazz obsession...

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