A Quincy Jones Celebration…

…that was the name of the Ystad Jazz Festival’s concluding event recognizing the career and achievements of its guest of honor. Quincy Jones spent a week in Ystad, listening to music, meeting the press, being wined and dined and reuniting with friends, some of whom he first knew in Sweden 60 years ago. Earlier on August 5, Mr. Jones and I chatted before an audience at the Ystad Museum about his career, going back to the early 1950s. That’s when he first made his mark, writing arrangements for what became a classic album featuring his fellow trumpeters Clifford Brown and Art Farmer with a group of Swedish all-stars.

The celebration took place in Surbrunnsparken, a “people’s park” established in 1896 on the site of a spring valued for water believed to promote good health. 1,600 people gathered under an enormous tent erected for the occasion, lighted and provided with a superb sound system. Quality audio was important because the program included 20 of Jones’s compositions played and sung by some of Sweden’s brightest stars and arranged, for the most part, by Bengt-Arne Wallin, vital and active at 86. Jones and Wallin met in Stockholm in 1953 when Jones was touring Europe as a 20-year-old trumpeter and arranger with Lionel Hampton. More than once during the evening, Jones called Wallin his best friend, his “blood brother.” Here they are with Swedish television personality Anne Lundberg, the evening’s mistress of ceremonies.

In a speech at the beginning of the program, Jones told the audience that he stays in touch with his Swedish friends of more than half a century and returns to the country as often as possible because Swedes are “360-degree human beings.” He praised their warmth, talent and loyalty and, as a case in point, introduced Bengt Hallberg. Hallberg was the pianist on the 1953 session that made jazz history and helped enhance both of their reputations. Trombonist Nils Landgren played “Ack Värmeland, du sköna,” imported to the United States in 1951 by Stan Getz as “Dear Old Stockholm.” The song is as beloved by Swedes as if it were their national anthem and, although they weren’t asked to, some in the audience sang along. Then, the superb Bohuslän Big Band, several singers and the trio of festival artistic director Jan Lundgren performed pieces that the guest of honor wrote for motion pictures, television and recordings. The parade of Jones compositions and arrangements, conducted by Wallin, began with “Crucifixion March” from Pojken i trädet (The Boy In The Tree), the 1961 Swedish pictire for which Jones wrote his first movie score. It continued with music from The Pawnbroker, The Color Purple, In The Heat Of The Night and other films. There were pieces from hit records, among them “Meet Benny Bailey,” “Walking in Space,” “Soul Bossa Nova” “We Can Work It Out” and Jones’s arrangement of “Fly Me to the Moon” for Frank Sinatra

Near the end of the concert, the guest of honor replaced Wallin on the podium and conducted two Jones compositions closely associated with Sweden. First was “Stockholm Sweetnin’,” a masterpiece from that 1953 session with Brown, Farmer and the Swedish All-Stars. His arrangement incorporated a transcription for the Bohuslän saxophones of Clifford Brown’s solo on the original recording. Jones told the story of composing “The Midnight Sun Never Sets” as an alto saxophone solo for the late Arne Domnérus, who first played it from the newly-minted manuscript spread out at his feet in a concert at the Konserthuset in Stockholm in 1958. Shortly after, they made the recording with Arnold. As far as I know, there is no video of the Ystad performance, but here is Domnérus in the Harry Arnold recording. The accompanying YouTube photo of him is from decades later.

After conducting that famous piece in Ystad, Jones thanked Wallin, again calling him “my blood brother” and insisting that the audience give Wallin a standing ovation. Sixteen hundred people rose and cheered. The two old friends hugged as the Quincy Jones celebration and the 2012 Ystad festival came to a close.

(Photos by Jan Olsson, hug by Lars Grönwall)

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  1. KENNY HARRIS says

    Wish I could have been there too. I miss Nils-Bertil Dahlander (Bert Dale). We were fiends when we were both living in New York.

  2. Red Sullivan says

    And Miles very wonderfully and prominently took up “Ack Värmeland du sköna,” too, for his perfect, important, Columbia Records album ‘Round About Midnight – overlooked album sometimes, but as great a statement as that classic quintet ever made. EVER! So, is the “Ack Värmeland” there inspired by Getz directly, do you happen to know? i.e. Chicken or Egg…? (Nor should it be any surprise to anyone that Miles may well have taken his cue from Getz. He really adored Getz…. After all, he had good taste in music!).

    So: What was Miles connection to the Swedish theme: Getz, or personal?

    • Doug Ramsey says

      The Getz recording with pianist Bengt Hallberg, bassist Gunnar Johnson and drummer Jack Noren was on the Swedish Metronome label. Shortly after they made it in 1951, the Prestige label released it in the US under the title, “Dear Old Stockholm.” It quickly became familiar to American musicians, including, no doubt, Davis, who recorded it in 1956. The Getz recording observes the song’s original folk-like AABA structure, with its unusual four-bar B section. Davis altered the song by adding interludes that may have been suggested by Gil Evans. The booklet for the Columbia Legacy reissue of Davis’s ‘Round About Midnight album identifies the piece as “traditional, arranged by Stan Getz,” but the Getz recording does not have the interludes. Purists prefer the unadulterated original, but the altered Davis version is pervasive. It is the one that musicians’ fake books have adopted.

      For the record (heh-heh), here is the 1951 Getz version. For anyone unfamiliar with Hallberg, this is a perfect way to hear why his keyboard touch and harmonic concept captivated so many listeners.