Jazzy history

Yet another chapter in the Norwegian jazz history is documented. Two new CDs from the Norwegian Jazz Archives and Herman Records are released, featuring jazz from 1960 – 1980. 25 of the tracks have not been available on CD before.

Jazz in Norway - Turning Pages (2003)

The two new CDs, “Turning pages, Jazz in Norway, vol. 4: 1960 – 1970” and “Footprints, Jazz in Norway, vol. 5: 1970 – 1980”, are the last in a series of five starting with the very beginning of Norwegian jazz in the 1920’s. 35 tracks are selected to give listeners an overview of the period and present some of the most important musicians. Tradjazz, swing, bop, mainstream, and modern jazz are represented on the CDs through artists such as Jan Garbarek, Erik Kapstad Orchestra, Laila Dalseth, and Arild Andersen.

A committee leaded by now deceased Johs Bergh from the Norwegian Jazz Archieves has decided on who to include or not. Naturally, some technical challenges appeared. Some will miss musicians because their recordings were not available or of poor quality. Some tracks were not available on master tapes. These are transferred from analogue phonograms. Careful removal of clicks and crackles are done by technician Harriet Lundberg at Swedish Radio, and the final master tape is produced by Masterhuset AS.

To give you a thorough tour of 20 swinging years, MIC will present two articles about the periods, written by the Norwegian Jazz Archive. First to go is “Jazz in Norway 1960 – 1970”. The second, “Jazz in Norway 1970 – 1980” will available in a few days. The two CDs, as well as information about how to order the records are available on the Norwegian Jazz Archive’s English web site.

Turning pages – Jazz in Norway 1960-1970

Norwegian jazz in the fifties had been a movement characterized by optimism and progress. Together with the material growth in Norwegian society and the fascination for America, jazz experienced increasing popularity. Not even the entrance of rock in the mid-fifties caused the jazz milieu any lasting harm. In 1960 there were 30 jazz clubs in Norway, more than ever before.

The high level of activity continued, and the number of jazz clubs had stabilized at around 30 in the period 1960-64. You could listen to jazz six days a week at the Metropol Jazzcenter in Oslo (1960-65) and Hotel Neptun in Bergen (1961-64). Cooperation with Jazzhus Montmartre in Copenhagen (from 1961) and Gyllene Cirkelen in Stockholm (from 1962) made extended visits by famous American jazz musicians possible. There was no dancing at Neptun, Montmartre or Gyllene Cirkelen, and if there was dancing at Metropol, jazz was also here mostly music for listening; at this time jazz was becoming more art than entertainment.
In 1961 the first Norwegian jazz festival was inaugurated at Molde, and in 1964 Kongsberg followed suit with a jazz weekend, developing the next year into a permanent festival.

New styles, new faces
Jazz in the fifties was characterized by a multitude of styles (dixieland, swing, bop and cool), and a popular synthesis of several styles into the concept of mainstream. Around the turn of the decade there was a stylistic revolution by new names like John Coltrane, Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Eric Dolphy, Archie Shepp and Albert Ayler, slowly (more or less) accepted from the years 1958-62. Despite these indications of a new type of jazz to come, older swing and mainstream musicians like Rowland Greenberg (trumpet), Pete Brown (drums), Arvid Gram Paulsen (tenor sax), Scott Lunde (piano), Kristian Bergheim (tenor sax) and Øistein Ringstad (piano), born in the period 1920-27, were still very active.

A group of younger musicians, born in the thirties, had tasted the new jazz forms of the forties: bebop and cool jazz. Worthy of mention here are Mikkel Flagstad (tenor sax), Einar Iversen (piano), Karl Otto Hoff (drums), Kjell Karlsen (piano), Atle Hammer (trumpet), Kjell Johansen (drums), Asmund Bjørken (accordeon and alto sax), Totti Bergh (tenor sax), Erik Amundsen (bass), Karin Krog (vocal), Harald Bergersen (tenor sax), Eivin Sannes, (piano), Alf Kjellman (baritone sax), Svein-Erik “Atom-Jørgen” Gaardvik (drums), Tore Sandnæs (piano) and the very young schoolmates Bjørn Johansen (tenor sax, b. 1940) and Erik Andresen (alto sax, b.1941). Many of these played in the most prominent big band of the era, Kjell Karlsen’s orchestra (1959-64), house band at the Penguin Club in Oslo. Some musicians achieved status in the more attractive jazz milieu in Sweden: Bjarne Nerem (tenor sax), Andreas Skjold (trombone) and Egil “Bop” Johansen (drums).

The annual Norwegian Amateur Jazz Championships, lasting until 1964, identified talents born in the beginning of the forties: Ole Jacob Hansen (drums), Frode Thingnæs (trombone), Ditlef Eckhoff (trumpet), Jon Christensen (drums), Jan Berger (guitar) and a very young Jan Garbarek (tenor sax, b. 1947, Norwegian Champion in 1962). To the same generation, active in Oslo from the early sixties, also belong Egil Kapstad (piano), Laila Dalseth (vocal), Svein Christiansen (drums), Arild Wikstrøm (piano), Per Løberg (bass), Bernt Anker Steen (trumpet), Roy Hellvin (piano) and Magni Wentzel (vocal). Practitioners of traditional jazz (dixieland/New Orleans revival) lived and played side by side with the modernists.

The most celebrated group was The Big Chief Jazzband (established 1952), house band in its own club, The Big Chief Jazz Club (1953-65); other recording groups were The Royal Garden Jazzband (from 1955), The Riverboat Jazzband (1957-61), The Tigertown Jazzband (1957-69), Vannebos Dixielandband (from 1959) and Stokstad/Jensen Tradband (established 1962 as Bjørn Stokstad’s orchestra). One musician in particular from this milieu was bassist Bjørn Pedersen (b. 1935), who also played with several modern groups in the sixties and accompanied visiting foreign musicians.

Few recording companies
Even if jazz thrived and bloomed, the commercial recording companies were reluctant to record jazz and issue jazz records. Norwegian musicians looked with great envy to Sweden, where jazz LPs were regularly produced. In November 1963 Norsk Grammofonkompani was persuaded to record an LP with 11 Norwegian jazz groups (no salaries!); this first comprehensive LP record of Norwegian jazz was issued on the Harmoni label with the title “Metropol Jazz”. The first LP in the name of a single artist was made by Karin Krog, “By myself” on the Philips label in 1964.

The Buddy Award, Norwegian Jazz Federation’s most important symbol of achievement, was given in the first half of the sixties to Mikkel Flagstad (1960), Erik Amundsen (1961), Bjørn Johansen (1962), (not awarded 1963) and Øistein Ringstad (1964).In the mid-sixties dramatic developments affected Norwegian jazz.

Jazz collapse
During the 1964-65 season, more than 20 Norwegian jazz clubs disappeared. A formidable collapse had taken place. What could have been the reason for such a downslide? Many explanations have been suggested. One fact is that jazz music, with the above-mentioned new style creators from Coltrane to Ayler, had been a more difficult and less accessible music form – and not particularly suited for dancing! With regard to the younger generation, jazz had met competition from the Shadows style of popular music (from 1961) with whining electric guitars, then the twist, shake, beat and soul, The Beatles’ breakthrough in 1963, the new song craze from the same period (“Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” 1963) and finally the Rolling Stones’ immense popularity from 1964. Society had also experienced a certain amount of political radicalism. The race riots in the US, and the escalation of the Vietnam war, did not make the situation better for younger followers of an almost exclusively American music form. The sixties was a period when many turned their backs on the home of jazz. The hippie movement and “flower power” became central concepts.

In Sweden the threats had been realized, starting an early debate on jazz and its chances of survival, and in 1963 the jazz musicians’ own organization, Emanon, was founded in order to improve the situation. In Norway you might contend that passivity reigned too long; only after the collapse did Norwegian jazz musicians found Norsk Jazzforum (Norwegian Jazz Forum), modelled on Emanon.

By the end of 1966 only the festival cities Molde and Kongsberg had jazz clubs, plus a few recently started clubs in Kristiansund and Ålesund. Some other clubs existed formally, but without much activity. In Oslo other kinds of music arenas catered to jazz along with other kinds of music, like Club 7 (from 1963) and Downtown Key Club (from 1965).

The collapse happened at a time when Norwegian jazz musicians were quality-conscious and ambitious, having achieved a certain international status, and were participating in international jazz festivals (e.g. Karin Krog in Antibes 1964, Bjørn Johansen in Zürich and Ole Jacob Hansen with Eric Dolphy in Paris 1965, Karin Krog and Jan Garbarek in
Warsaw and Prague 1966).

Founding Norwegian Jazz Forum
Norwegian Jazz Forum (nothing to do with the Norsk jazzforum of today) was founded March 10, 1965, with Karin Krog as leader (later Erik Amundsen 1966-67, Johs Bergh 1967-69, and Vigdis Garbarek 1969-70). They moved jazz away from smoke-filled clubs and arranged around 20 concerts, most of them in the Munch Museum (1965-68), some at the Henie Onstad Art Center (1968-69). Among the new clubs, we could mention Studentbyens Jazzklubb (“Student village jazz club”) in Oslo, which from 1967 played an active part in presenting contemporary jazz.

Several young musicians entered the jazz milieu, all born 1944-48: Carl Magnus “Calle” Neumann (alto sax), Terje Bjørklund (piano), Bjørnar Andresen (bass), Bjørn Alterhaug (bass), Svein Finnerud (piano), Christian Reim (piano), Arild Andersen (bass), Knut Riisnæs (tenor sax), Terje Venaas (bass), Fred Nøddelund (trumpet), Terje Rypdal (guitar) and Espen Rud (drums). Jobs were to be had at festivals and the jazz forum’s concerts, but many of them also participated in the rhythm & blues groups of the day. The era offered a synthesis of free jazz forms, Latin-American impulses and strong rhythms, often mixed with psychedelic elements and absurd happenings.

However, the claims that jazz should be taken seriously had borne fruit. On the initiative of Norwegian Jazz Forum, official cultural authorities had loosened their purse-strings a little. Funding was granted for two record issues organized by the jazz forum (Egil Kapstad’s “Syner” and an LP with Svein Finnerud’s trio), commission works and financing seminars.
In other recording companies Karin Krog made three LPs under her own name (1964-68) and Jan Garbarek three LPs (1967-70). Among all this modernization, room was also made for a successful swing band which played at Norwegian Jazz Forum’s concerts (1967-68) and made an LP (1968); the band was led by the former trad jazz trumpeter Per Borthen (b. 1940). Norwegian Jazz Federation’s Buddy was awarded to Karin Krog (1965), (not awarded 1966), Jon Christensen (1967), Jan Garbarek (1968) and Arild Andersen (1969).

Norwegian jazz musicians obtained numerous engagements abroad, and jazz was coming closer to a new period of revival – enough for Norwegian Jazz Forum to decide that, having fulfilled its task, it could safely transfer its activities to others.

Bjørn Stendahl

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