The American audience is understandably not too aware of what is happening on the European jazz scene. I along with many of my contemporaries spend most of our playing time in Northern Europe working, recording and hanging with musicians from all the countries. There are differences in styles and feels from one country to another that are remarkable and very sophisticated. Overall, Europe reflects less of a bebop tradition and more classical and folk influences, often leading to some very individualistic and innovative music.
In the Nordic countries there is a long tradition of jazz from Charlie Parker’s time since he went to Sweden and played with local musicians in the early 1950s. The musicians from Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland have in my opinion the best overall training in Europe and equal to the best in the States. The conservatory system is diverse and rigorous as to what is required stylistically. Most of the Scandinavian musicians have gone through some training in that way. The most well known exponent of the so-called “Nordic” sound (popularized through ECM Records) is Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek. I have been playing with other famous Scandic musicians including drummer Jon Christensen, pianist Bobo Stenson and bassist Lars Danielson for over 15 years, the first two musicians beginning with Garbarek. I have become accustomed to their unique style and it has broadened me musically. On this present recording you are hearing three more of the best cats from the “Far North”. For me, this is one of the best dates I have done.
Right from the first track you will hear that special “Nordic” sound, especially in the rhythm section. Some might call this and similar tracks “free jazz” since it is not always centered around steady pulse or regulated chord cycles. Whatever the name, it moves along at an exciting pace, never falling into an expected outcome-always grooving with constant interaction. This music makes me play different primarily because of the way the rhythm section deals. I can leave space and something exciting usually occurs. On the other hand there is the melancholy, lyrical and haunting melodic/harmonic atmosphere which is so prevalent among these musicians and heard clearly on the first part of “O” by bassist Anders Jormin. Even when we play my reharmonized Parker head “Steeplechase” based on rhythm changes, the playing is anything but ordinary and cliched. If anything, my “Child At Play’ sounds a little out of place on this record stylistically, but I think the performance of this rather straight ahead material is stunning. This music is not for everyone but the interested listener will be exposed to some new ways of hearing on this CD.
I first met Jukkis Uotila in the early 1980s when he came to New York and I recorded with him performing his own music. At that time, as a young drummer from Finland, he was very exotic and on top of that Jukkis is a great pianist and composer. Since then he’s been busy playing with the bands of Randy Brecker, Toots Thielemans and Mike Stern, to name a few, and has a recent U.S. release out with Jerry Bergonzi. I’ve been very impressed and we have continued our relationship through the years. What brought us together for this particular recording project was an Honorary doctorate given to me by the venerable Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, where Jukkis in his position as a Professor of jazz music was able to help nominate me. A first for a jazz musician there-an honor that I’m very proud of. Swedish born Anders Jormin is one of that special breed of Scandinavian bassists well known to the jazz community as the top of the line. The sound he gets, the fills he executes, his soloing ability in and out of chord changes is amazing. For me (and drummer Billy Hart to name one other musician), he is one of the world’s greatest bassist. Finally, Jarmo Savolinen (Finland) is a pianist who has absorbed the modern tradition of Corea and Beirach, but mixes it with his own special free flowing melodic style and wonderful compositions. He has become a good friend through his representation of the Sibelius Academy at our yearly meetings of the International Association of Schools of Jazz which I founded in 1989 (more on my web site about this : www:upbeat.com/lieb).
I am very proud of this recording which we did without knowing if it would be released. And thanks to J. D. Aebersold for his far sightedness and support in allowing these fantastic musicians to be heard in America.
David Liebman - May 19 2000 - Stroudsburg, PA